Red Cross aide offers friendship in long-term care home

It was a time of both great joy and profound sadness.
For several weeks, Kara Schiestel worked as an Emergency Care Support Aide with the Canadian Red Cross amid the battle against the spread of COVID-19 in a long-term care home in Manitoba.
Kara Schiestel in PPE (face mask and goggles)The Alameda, Sask., resident was deployed to Winnipeg in November where she and other Red Cross staff provided much needed social support for residents, enabling care home staff to focus on other needs of the residents.
Calling it an incredibly rewarding experience, Schiestel said the role was about spending time with residents. “A lot of our job was helping to keep the residents in contact with their family and just spending time with them, being a friend.”
At the request of provincial and federal governments, the Canadian Red Cross is currently supporting the needs of residents in long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in several provinces, including Manitoba.
Based on needs identified by local health authorities, this support can include providing additional personnel capacity to assist with daily living activities for residents, such as socialization and food delivery, in addition to organizing and delivering personal protective equipment and other epidemic prevention and control measures, and training to prevent disease transmission.
With in-person visits with family not possible, the aides in the long-term care home where Schiestel was assigned used technology and tablets to help residents video chat with their family members. “The world would be a lot darker right now without today’s technology,” she said about how important it was for both residents and family members to be able to see each other, even if it wasn’t face-to-face.
Depending on the mobility of the resident, the aides helped some decorate their rooms for Christmas or, “we would just sit with them and read a book to them just so they had some kind of companionship in the room with them.”
Schiestel is a Red Cross volunteer with the Emergency Management and chose to apply for this paid, contract position. “I decided that it was an opportunity to help. I think our seniors are very vulnerable through this all so to be able to help them in any way was the way to go.”
While some of the days were emotionally challenging because of COVID-19, she said there were both good and difficult days. “I saw some people with COVID on their worst days but before I left Winnipeg, some of them were recovered and walking around which was very rewarding in the end.”
The Canadian Red Cross is hiring for a variety of positions to support those in long-term care homes and in support of its response to COVID-19. Learn more about these opportunities.
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