Former Canora resident returns to care for father after being laid off due to COVID-19

Donna Pasiechnik is one of the few people who have called being laid off “a gift.”

Pasiechnik, who works for the Canadian Cancer Society in Regina, was temporarily laid off along with one third of the employees of the national charitable organization. But the layoff gave her the opportunity to come back to Canora to provide homecare for her ailing father, Joseph Pasiechnik, 87, and to support her mother Carolle.

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After a lengthy and productive career as a grain buyer for Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and owning the Co-operator’s Insurance business, Pasiechnik and his wife, who worked at the Canora Pharmacy for a number of years, retired in Canora. But approximately three-and-a-half years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia.

Carolle was able to provide care for her husband until January of this year, when he became seriously ill. He spent a month in the Yorkton Regional Hospital.

“At that point it became clear that Mom couldn’t care for him by herself anymore, so we, as a family decided to have him transferred to the Invermay Health Centre in mid February,” said Donna. “They only have 26 beds, and it’s a family-like atmosphere, which really appealed to us. During his six weeks there, Dad’s health improved dramatically. They provided fantastic care, they were awesome! The staff so was kind and spent quality time with him, including taking him on regular walks.”

Since Invermay is only about a 30-minute drive from Canora, Carolle was able to make the drive almost daily to spend valuable time with her husband as he was getting accustomed to his new home.

“She was usually there from lunch until suppertime,” said Donna. “Dad was getting comfortable there and starting to get into a rhythm. He really looked forward to her visits and his health was improving.”

But then March came along and the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. As was the case in other care homes, all visitation was banned at the Invermay Health Centre.

“Dad missed mom so much,” said Donna. “He became depressed and his mental health went downhill. He wanted to come home, but mom knew she couldn’t do it alone.”

The Pasiechnik family became concerned over the potential danger of the coronavirus.

“What if COVID-19 got into the care home and dad got sick? We just couldn’t imagine this happening, and yet we had heard it had happened in other parts of Canada,” said Donna.

But then came the unexpected blessing of her layoff, which took effect on April 3. After talking it over as a family, including her sister Laura, brother Colin and their spouses, the decision was made to bring Joseph home to Canora that same day.

“It was like a gift because I was able to go home and help Mom look after him, with the blessing of my husband Dean, who is still in Regina,” said Donna. “It’s been such a weight lifted off our shoulders. Dad is doing very well. We take him on regular walks and make a point of keeping him engaged watching nature shows on Netflix.”

Due to the pandemic and Joseph’s health, they are staying home as much as possible. They considered getting home care for him, but decided allowing outsiders into the house was too much of a risk right now.

“We’re getting our groceries delivered, thanks to Gateway Co-op,” said Donna. “Our new neighbour, Rod Young, has been great, running errands, getting our mail for us. During times like this, it’s really all about neighbours helping neighbours.”

She strongly encourages everyone to keep in touch with loved ones and elderly neighbours to ensure everyone is getting what they need, even if it’s just a phone conversation.

“We all need to help each other.”

Donna said it makes her uncomfortable when people treat her like some type of a hero for coming back home to help look after her father.

“I’m just doing what anyone else would have done in the same situation,” she said. “We’re really lucky that Dad is still well enough that Mom and I together can look after him for a while at home. I feel so badly for others who can’t do this due to reasons beyond their control.”

She encourages other Canora and area residents to do what is necessary to stay safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Let’s all do what the health experts say so we can get through this thing as quick as possible. It would be so wonderful if families can get back to visiting family members at care homes. Many are in the homes due to dementia and are already isolated. Not seeing their families makes it much worse,” Donna concluded.