Health worker turned hairstylist: Pandemic brings new responsibilities for health-care aides
Health-care aides have done more to make up for fewer visits to continuing care homes
Few groups in Canada have been hit harder by COVID-19 than residents of long-term care homes.
As of Wednesday, the Alberta government reported there had been 728 total cases of COVID-19 and 111 deaths from the illness at continuing care facilities in Alberta alone. Because of the pandemic, visits to these facilities have become limited, leaving it to health-care aides to take up more work helping the residents.
This is what led Rommel Arguelles, an aide at Covenant Health's Youville Home in St. Albert, to add hairdressing to his daily set of responsibilities as an aide.
Arguelles has worked in health care for more than a decade. He was a registered nurse in his home country of the Philippines, and after he moved to Canada in late 2009 with his wife, he transitioned into working as a health-care aide.
But hairdressing isn't a totally new task for him either, as he said he'd often help his children to style their hair while they were growing up.
"It just came naturally. As a father myself, I'm kind of hands-on with my kids when they were growing up," said Arguelles who spoke with CBC's Radio Active on Thursday afternoon.
Arguelles doesn't cut hair at Youville, but he'll style residents' hair as part of their daily routine along with helping to get them dressed and ready for meals. Arguelles said staff help residents with around 90 per cent of their daily activities.
Arguelles said he feels sad for residents who have been unable to see visitors as often. With fewer visitors to the centre and with health restrictions keeping Arguelles solely working in Youville instead of splitting time between different facilities, this has created a stronger bond between Arguelles and the residents he works with.
"For now, we are their family," Arguelles said.
"We help them out calling their families. We sometimes sit with them, have a little chat."
While providing daily support for Youville's residents, Arguelles said he badly misses his own parents back home in the Philippines. He had been planning to spend a month back home in the Philippines with his family at the end of the year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented that from happening. It's been six years since Arguelles last saw his parents in person, but he still keeps up with them regularly.
"For the last two months back home, they're not allowed to come out. So every other day I make it a point to call them, video chat with them, update them with what's going on back in Canada," Arguelles said.
While he misses his parents, Arguelles said the residents he works with at Youville have become a family for him in Canada the more time he spends with them.
"I'm not saying I'm replacing my mom and my dad, but for now they are my folks in Canada," Arguelles said.