Willow Square residents, staff celebrate first anniversary

Story by Logan Clow – Alberta Health Services

Residents and their families at the Willow Square Continuing Care Centre celebrated the facility’s one-year anniversary with a tasty barbecue lunch and fun activities such as mini-putt golf and slingshot target practice.

Willow Square Allied Health staff planned the June 24 celebration, with support from Willow Square nurses, Food and Nutrition Services staff, and AHS volunteers. Where necessary, activities were modified so they could be enjoyed by residents of all abilities.

“While abiding by COVID-19 guidelines, this event was an opportunity for our Willow Square healthcare teams to come together to offer a joyful and fun celebration for the residents,” says Alanna Surprenant, Allied Health manager, Fort McMurray.

“There was so much connection between the residents and staff. There were certainly lots of laughs and smiles — and I think it was an enjoyable day for everyone.”

The Willow Square Allied Health team supports residents with pain management, speech, hearing, mobility, rebuilding strength and other physical challenges.

“Having a dedicated Allied Health team at Willow Square, and regularly working in collaboration with other healthcare teams and staff — such as for the one-year celebration — really enhances the quality of life for the residents,” adds Surprenant. “Our goal is to make living at Willow Square an enjoyable experience for them.”

Willow Square officially opened on June 23, 2021, by welcoming 39 residents from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre’s (NLRHC) continuing care unit.

The facility features 108 single, private occupant rooms — 36 for long-term care and palliative care and 72 for supportive living. There are six cottages designated for different levels of care — long-term care, supportive living and memory/dementia care.

“Willow Square has become a home for our residents,” says Darline Reid, Area 10 manager, Seniors Health. “Our residents have really settled in well over the last year. They’re happy, content and it’s become a comfortable home atmosphere for them.”

Approximately 70 residents are currently living at Willow Square, including Glen Docherty, a Fort McMurray resident who moved into Willow Square in July 2021.

“I love it here,” says Docherty. “All of the healthcare staff are very helpful, courteous and willing to help you.”

Willow Square offers an array of amenities, including courtyards, gardens, library, café, hair salon, sensory room, Medicine Wheel Room, rehabilitation therapy rooms and multi-purpose rooms. The facility also has its own accessible bus that takes residents to community events and outings.

“When I go to do my rounds, residents always tell me how much they love it here,” says Juanita Pilgrim, assistant head nurse.

Reid and Pilgrim say Willow Square residents enjoy many activities. Some love to socialize with other residents over a coffee and treat from the café, visit with their families and loved ones, take outings on the bus, stroll in the outdoor courtyard, attend ceremonial activities in the Medicine Wheel Room, bake treats with staff and plant and tend the garden.

While COVID-19 limited some of the activities and programming over the past year, more opportunities will be offered as it’s deemed safe and appropriate.

“Willow Square offers much more space and opportunity for residents to socialize with their families, other residents and participate in activities and community outings,” says Reid.

Reid and Pilgrim say there have been several achievements at Willow Square since its opening, including a number of successful quality audits which ensure the safest care is being delivered to all Albertans who seek care within this AHS facility.

“These audits have been very successful, and it’s a testament to the hard work of our onsite staff, including our 70 clinical support staff,” says Pilgrim.

“Every day, our staff are committed to providing excellent supportive living care. They’re the reason our residents feel at home at Willow Square. Our staff treat our residents like they would treat their own mom and dad, and it’s really nice to see.”

Reid also shares another success — assisting two Willow Square supportive living residents back into the community for independent living. “If we can help someone and support them to the point where they feel comfortable enough to independently live in the community — because that’s what they want to do and that’s what their wish is — then that’s a success,” she says. “And we’re still able to provide them support through services such as home care.”

There is currently no waitlist for resident rooms at Willow Square.

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