Lynne Smith and her dog Chester pose in this undated handout photo. Smith has applied for a job at a long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., and says she’ll even clean toilets so she can see her husband. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Lynne Smith *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Lynne Smith and her dog Chester pose in this undated handout photo. Smith has applied for a job at a long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., and says she’ll even clean toilets so she can see her husband. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Lynne Smith *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Woman says she’d clean toilets to work at B.C. care home and see husband

Menno Place is recruiting residents’ families because so many employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19

Lynne Smith’s daily visits to a long-term care home ended abruptly after a COVID-19 outbreak three weeks ago but she jumped at the chance to work at the facility that is hiring family members so she can see her husband.

“I felt so powerless and unhelpful. Laundry and being in dietary and being a housekeeper are not really my forte but I mean, I’ll do anything.” Smith said. “I’ll wash dishes, I’ll clean toilets.”

Smith’s husband, Derrick Smith, 72, has been living at Menno Place in Abbotsford, B.C., since February 2018 after moving there from another facility following a stroke and brain surgery.

Menno Place is recruiting residents’ families because so many employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in an outbreak that started on Nov. 17 after one resident became ill following treatment in hospital.

Smith said she’d visited her husband daily with their dog, Chester, even as they were forced to see each other through a window when visits were limited.

“I’ll do it for free. Just get me in there so I could help somebody,” said Smith, who had already been doing some of her husband’s laundry and cleaned his hearing aids and teeth.

Karen Biggs, CEO of Menno Place, said 31 residents and 21 staff had become ill on a unit that is home to 45 people but the care home began putting together a plan to hire families after the first few infections to avoid a staffing crisis that has hit other facilities.

“We’re getting very, very tight because staff are going off sick or they’re going off with pending swabs,” she said of those awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests.

The home’s director of human resources, the manager of housekeeping and laundry and the executive director of finance have come in on days off to work for staff who were sick or doing extra duties for patients confined to their rooms, Biggs said.

Menno Place had been trying to hire staff for months, she said.

“Because of the single-site order, it’s very, very hard to recruit people right now,” Biggs said of a policy by the provincial health officer for staff in care homes to work in only one facility to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading from place to place, as was the case earlier in the pandemic.

Biggs said 54 applicants, including residents’ grandchildren, had responded to a request on the facility’s website to work in laundry service, delivering food trays to rooms and doing housekeeping duties because of enhanced cleaning requirements during the outbreak.

Two people have so far been hired to do housekeeping, including a former care aide who once worked at Menno Place and whose mother is a resident at the facility, Biggs said, adding families in Alberta whose loved ones also live there have inquired about whether they’d need to quarantine for two weeks before starting work.

Residents’ families would get the same safety training offered to other employees around infection control and the use of personal protective equipment, she said.

The added bonus is those who work at the facility would get to see their loved one while cleaning their room, for example, but not having direct contact with them.

“I’d clean spotless If my mother was on the unit,” Biggs said.

READ MORE: 32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said Menno Place seems to be the first long-term care facility in Canada to hire families.

The important role of families who help with everything from feeding to helping care for their loved ones has been acknowledged during the pandemic, she said, adding getting to see people while working at a care home may be the only hope for those who have been forced to stay away.

“I think Menno Place is showing a flexibility and ingenuity around how to get some extra hands in there quickly.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Cranbrook city hall.
Curbside recycling collection program set for May debut

A residential curbside recycling collection program is expected to begin in Cranbrook… Continue reading

Cranbrook's Donald and Sharleen March won $75,000 in a scratch and win ticket, according to the BC Lottery Corporation.
Cranbrook couple wins $75,000 with scratch ticket

A Cranbrook couple is the recipient of a cool $75,000 from a… Continue reading

Images from yesteryear: The Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band, with Joyce Metcalfe standing second from left.
Remembering Joyce Metcalfe, and the Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band

Isn’t it amazing when by chance in this huge world of ours, meet outstanding people that greatly influence our lives? One such person was Joyce Metcalfe.

Pictured are Meredith Funston of Cranbrook Food Recovery (left), Shannon Grey Duncan of Kimberley Food Recovery (middle) and Wade Jarvis of Bohemian Spirits (right). The three have teamed up to divert bread from the landfill and turn it into ethanol, which is used to make hand sanitizer. (Corey Bullock file)
Cranbrook, Kimberley organizations team up to turn excess bread into ethanol

Local food recovery programs have teamed up with Bohemian Spirits to keep bread out of the landfill

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read