September 17, 2020
Patty Orend Finalist
Landscape Ontario is sharing stories of frontline heroes who have gone above and beyond to support their community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Garden Makeover Finalists have a chance to win the grand prize $25,000 garden makeover or one of nine valued at $5,000 — one in each of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association's regional chapters.

A person support worker (PSW) by training, Orend supports the home’s 25 residents with their day-to-day needs. Additionally, she manages the home’s administration, and even works a couple of shifts in the kitchen when the chef is off.

“I’m chief cook and bottle washer,” Orend says, with a laugh. “I do all the managing in the office; I work from 6:30 in the morning to around 4 or 5 in the afternoon on the floor as well. I help with appointments and rent and just about everything you can think of.”

Orend has been a PSW since 2000, and has been working at the assisted living home for two years. 2020 has been the most challenging year of her career. 

“When Premier Doug Ford announced the social distancing measures in the spring, we totally locked down the home, to make sure that everyone was safe,” she said. “Our home ranges from ages 27 to 99, and normally there are residents who will go out to the store and so forth. But that all changed in March.”

“So if the residents needed anything: toothpaste, deodorant, potato chips, whatever, a couple of staff members and I would make grocery lists. So when we went shopping, we would have at least eight lists to shop for. I’d have a cart and everyone would have their own little corner of the cart and when I got to the cash register, I’d tell them that I had multiple orders to go through. Fortunately, they were always so gracious and they would go through each order one at a time.”

It was a bit chaotic at the beginning, she says. But the residents understood the importance of social distancing.

“The residents really were wonderful about it all, “Orend says. “No one squabbled about it, they took it in stride.”

The staff team was also exceptional, Orend says.

“The rule was, you leave work and you go home. You go nowhere else. If you need to go to the grocery store, send someone else if you can. We all understood that it only takes one person to bring the virus into the home, and that would be a disaster.”

Orend says the strict social distancing also extended to family members.

“It was something I talked to my husband about as well because if he went out and was exposed, and brought it home to me, it could then get to my residents. And that just wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.”

Orend comes from a family of frontline workers, which she says is inspired by her mom who worked for many years as a nurse. Orend has two sisters who work in healthcare, as well as several of her daughters (she has seven daughters and a total of 14 grandkids) also work in the field. It is something that brings her a great deal of pride.

“It’s a value that was instilled in me that it’s important to help people and to support your community,” Orend says.

If she was selected as a garden makeover recipient, Orend says she would want to split the award between her home and the [name of the assisted living home].

“During the pandemic, more than ever, I saw how important it was for residents to spend time outside on the deck, in the fresh air, ”Orend said. “Just something as simple as reading in the shade of the trees, or enjoying some sunshine, can have such a positive impact.”

Learn more about the Garden Makeover Program