How One Red Cross Found Hope While Supporting Long-Term Care

Topics: Ontario, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
Jon Adam Chen, Communications Advisor | December 18, 2020

When the COVID-19 virus arrived in Canada this spring, Christelle Bogosta was looking to adopt a horse. An avid equestrian, Christelle was still mourning the loss of the horse she had looked after for seven years, who had recently been put down due to injuries from a field accident. As updates from the pandemic grew more severe, she hoped for some good news. Then, in June, she heard through a horse rescue about a healthy 21-year-old retired showjumper named Lotus. Spending time with Lotus, who she has since adopted, serves as a reminder for Christelle that new hope can arise out of tragedy.

For Christelle, it is hope that motivated her to get involved with the Red Cross and provide support to seniors in long-term care homes.  

“It is a team effort [...] You can imagine the workload in a long-term care facility on a regular basis. In an acute outbreak where residents may be sick and less autonomous, it’s a double whammy.”

Christelle was a site manager with the Canadian Red Cross in the Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, Ontario. It was the first long-term care home in the province to receive assistance from Red Cross, upon request by the Ontario government and funded by the Government of Canada. Red Cross personnel, led by Christelle, worked in collaboration with existing staff in the home, to meet the needs of residents and provide comfort and care services, including assistance with daily living activities and engagement.

The impact was immediate. “It is so essential to have the Red Cross team function and come in at the most difficult moments.”

In her role as site manager, Christelle ensured vigilance was observed in epidemic prevention and control methods. For staff on the ground, the challenges sometimes felt overwhelming. She says that the pandemic tested her team’s instincts in caring for others. “What is hard is that you can’t see the virus. It is invisible, so you need to have a belief in the procedures for protection.” Simple human acts, like singing Happy Birthday to patients, are forbidden in order to prevent viral transmission. “It is really hard, but it won’t always be like this.” These glimmers of hopeful thinking are what helps Christelle and her team through a challenging time. 

Just as with Lotus, difficult moments have been punctuated by encouraging signs. For example, Christelle shared that Prescott and Russell Residences warmly welcomed the Red Cross at all levels which made for an easy transition into the long-term care home. Each day seemed to get easier and the work became less routine and more instinctual.

Christelle introduced new ways to engage the team. During meetings, all staff were given the floor to express themselves and make suggestions. “It develops critical thinking, and modifications we’ve made for safety, scheduling and communication have come from staff who are in the wards. As management, we are able to see subtle nuances about work organization and improve continuously.”

Christelle says she often received messages of appreciation from former colleagues and members of the community. “It is a real honour and privilege to be working with the Red Cross [...] There is a wealth of information and experience. The people I meet are incredible and give me an ability to shine.”  

When she’s not working, Christelle visits Lotus each week – time she uses to reconnect with nature and the simple joys of life. She suggests to her whole team that they find their own opportunities to recharge.  “In emergency situations, it is easy to forget ourselves. These are things that do good to our souls.”  It’s hope that shines through even at the end of the most difficult days.

The Canadian Red Cross is actively recruiting volunteers and staff to join its teams as they help those in need across Canada. Opportunities are well-suited for individuals with a wide range of schedules and skills. Find out more at redcross.ca/volunteer.