ALMONTE, ONT. -- Residents and staff of long-term care and retirement homes have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The staff at these facilities are working long hours, and are enduring physical and mental stress. They are also with the residents during their final moments.

Laurie MacPherson is working at Almonte Country Haven.  She spent the final moments with Irene Campbell, a 99-year-old resident who died from complications linked to COVID-19 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“I held onto her so that she would know that she’s not alone, and I told her how much her family loved her and that she had left them a wonderful legacy and stayed with her until she passed.”

It’s one of the most difficult moments for a care assistant worker, but it’s something MacPherson would do again.

“You very quickly learn to love the residents; as soon as you begin to care for anybody, there is a bond that you just love them.”

MacPherson joined Almonte Country Haven only a few weeks ago.   She heard about the need for help from her sister, Carolyn Della Foresta who is the Administrator for the facility,

“My sister Laurie had worked here for many years, but then she left health care to raise a family and support her husband in their family business.”

But Della Foresta says getting back to Almonte was going to be a challenge for MacPherson.

“She was out in Saskatchewan for the birth of her fifth grandchild, and she had several flights cancelled.   When she spoke with me, and I explained with her what we were going into at the home, she immediately called and rented a car.”

After several cancelled flights, MacPherson rented a car and drove back, ready to help, like many others as Della Foresta explains,

“This is not the only example I can provide…. a PSW last week had already worked well over her 75 hours and she came in on her day off because one of our residents who she considered a dear friend was passing and her family was not able to come in for their own health reasons.”

MacPherson cares for the residents,

“You very quickly learn to love the residents; as soon as you begin to care for anybody, there is a bond that you just love them.”

Including the woman who she spent final moments with.

“This family had been vigilant in standing outside the window and talking to their mom and grand-mom through the window, but we felt pretty certain that she was going to pass on Saturday night. They just happened to be long time friends of the family, I grew up with some of them, so I just said that I would stay and sit with her - so I did.”