COVID-19 outbreaks in the province’s long-term care homes laid bare gaps in funding and support for personal support workers. However, Jan Saugh, an activation manager, said the role of socially stimulating residents, commonly called activation, is still overlooked despite the province making moves to shore up the sector.

That’s why Saugh is starting Activity On Wheels With Jan, a company that will provide customized activity plans and social interaction for seniors.

“The purpose of my job is to put a smile on people’s faces,” the Carnarvon resident said.

For people living with dementia, or those living in isolation, Saugh said “engaging a person one-on-one” can have long-term benefits on a person’s quality of life.

Throughout her decade-long career as an activation manager in Huntsville and an activation worker at Haliburton Highlands Health Services, she’s seen how engaging with residents can lift spirits and revitalize their enthusiasm for life.

“My job is to go over there, make them smile, take their hand – reach them at their level,” she said. That means conversation, playing cards, helping with outings or even researching a person’s interests. Saugh could become an expert on golf if that would spark conversation and connection with a patient, for example.

She said music often unlocks memories. “You put on an old sing-along with music from their era: you see their faces light up,” she said.

Saugh said she once sang the hymn Jesus Loves Me to a patient with dementia who was non-verbal. “She looked up, and she started singing. That was the greatest feeling.”

With her independent practice, Saugh will visit clients around the County at their residence after developing a care plan. That includes an interview with caregivers to find out a person’s interests, abilities, and possible conversation topics.

Saugh uses that information to determine how she can fill gaps in care.

“We need the basics of healthy living,” she said. Even if a person receives home care, Saugh said “there’s still that one missing piece. We all need social interaction. we all need to be socially stimulated.”

Saugh can be reached at 705-644-9074 or