Recognizing the contributions of its staff, Chartwell Elmira Retirement Residence is presenting awards to its long-serving employees this evening (May 10). Among the recipients are four who’ve been there for three decades, long enough to see many changes in the industry.
Joan Norris is the general manager at Chartwell Elmira. She is also the recipient of the 30-year award.
“There are a lot more regulations from the government since I started, of course,” she said. “And people getting frailer and living longer. That’s probably one of the biggest changes: people are living a lot longer.”
Norris speculates that this is due to higher-quality technology and general medical advancements.
“People take better care of themselves too,” she added. “I think it’s just Elmira. I think it’s the air or something, or the rural community, possibly because there’s less stress in a small town.”
Another recipient of the 30-year award is Victoria Rau, the recreation manager and volunteer coordinator at Chartwell Elmira.
“Things tend to change slowly, and then all of a sudden you look back and see the difference,” said Rau. “All of the chartings are done on computers now. Your care plans … everything is computerized now. At the beginning when you transition over, you think oh, this is going to take forever to get used to. Now I can’t ever imagine going back.”
“We didn’t even have lifts 30 years ago to get people in and out of bed,” added Norris. “People were a lot more independent. Now we’ve got lifts. We’ve got residents that are given so much heavier care.”
The long service awards to recognize staff are a well-established tradition kept up before Norris joined the team in 1988. There are a total of 14 recipients of these awards this year, recognizing service in five-year increments, including 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30.
That ceremony is not the only way that employees at Chartwell are celebrated. There is also Employee Appreciation Week, the Circle of Excellence Awards and Service Hero Awards.
Chartwell believes in recognizing excellent employees because the job comes with intense challenges. For starters, there is a shortage of PSWs not only in Elmira, but across Canada, said Norris. According to Personal Support Worker HQ, there is a high demand for PSWs in certain areas of Canada such as Sudbury, but very few takers.
They must also deal with the difficulty that the people who live there may eventually pass away there.
“Losing a resident is very tough. And people think that you’ve been in it so long that you get used to it, you do not get used to it,” said Norris. “You get to know the residents and the families. Because it’s not like a hospital where they’re in for a couple of days and gone. They’re in for years, some of them. So you get to know them so, so well and their families. And when they die, it’s like losing a grandmother or parent or an uncle or something. And then you don’t see their families either, so you also lose their families. So you’re losing a whole group of people when someone dies. And it’s tough for the staff. Because you know when someone goes into long term care that it’s their end of lifetime, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
The long service awards are a way of celebrating a demanding but rewarding career. The staff have all formed close relationships with one another and invite all of their retirees to the awards ceremonies, said Norris.
“I think it’s amazing that this many people have committed this many years,” added Rau. “It’s a career, it’s a passion, it’s a love. Because it’s hard work and people do it because they care.”