Extendicare Holyrood

International Women’s Week Continues | Meet Nermen Helles, Director of Care, Extendicare Halton Hills

Leading — and ‘Living For’ — Connections and Care

No day is the same for Nermen Helles — except for one part.

When she starts each shift at Extendicare Halton Hills, she completes a full round of the home, waving to hello to every resident along the way. When they smile and wave back, “it’s the most beautiful thing that can happen in the morning.”

Nermen is the home’s Director of Care. It’s her job to manage and make sure that residents are getting what they need, that staff have what they need to deliver it, and that families are up to speed about it all.

It’s a big task for a home with 100 residents, and it’s one she’s happy to take on.

The purpose that drives her to work is the difference she’s making in people’s lives. “This is how I can feel satisfied with what I’m doing. If I’m able to resolve an issue for residents, satisfy a family with the care we’re providing, recognize the hard work of staff — this is the part I’m living for,” she said.

Nermen entered her career in long-term care by happy accident. She started in Quebec, where as a nurse, she worked in psychiatry, cardiology and hospital. She moved on to be an expert analyst and clinical consultant serving a variety of health sector contracts, one of which brought her to the long-term care and retirement space as a Regional Health Director.

“That was the first time I connected with the elder population, and I loved it. I felt that I really had a major impact with clients,” she said. “When I moved to Ontario, I knew I wanted to join a long term care home.”

Since joining Extendicare Halton Hills in February 2020, Nermen has made it her mission to build and keep solid family connections.

“It’s really important to involve them in the day to day,” she said. “Families know residents better than anyone else. They have great ideas, and I try to have this connection with them because what they bring forward is really strong.”

Nermen is getting her Master’s in Business Administration to further hone her management skills for the role she loves. She’s in the thick of it with staff and residents, able to identify issues and create action plans, to assess how things are going and implement good care.

She knows she can’t do all that alone — it takes a hardworking team to bring it together. It comes down to making sure they’re encouraged, supported and feel confident to make good decisions for residents. “You have to empower team members and make sure they know we appreciate what they’re doing.”

The work doesn’t come without its challenges, especially this year with COVID-19 impacting long-term care communities across Canada. When Nermen arrived at Halton Hills, one of the first things she did was an infection prevention and control assessment to identify and fix any gaps so that residents and staff were as protected as possible. Still, the home went into outbreak, a difficult and draining experience for any home.

Thankfully the virus has been cleared, and 86% of residents now having received their second dose of vaccine. Spirits are coming back up across the Halton Hills community.

Last Friday, as Nermen completed her daily round of the home, she took a picture of every resident, capturing 100 smiling faces.

“It’s really beautiful to get to capture those moments,” she said.

In reflecting on how rewarding her work is, the Choose to Challenge theme of International Women’s Day this year has additional meaning for Nermen. Her dedication to Extendicare Halton Hills is accompanied by her dedication to building her own family at home- the two go hand in hand. “This week, I choose to challenge the notion that motherhood cannot be compatible with a successful and ambitious career.”