An update from our seniors’ residences

By Taylor McClure, Special to The Record

While those businesses and establishments that have been deemed essential across the country have all had to adapt in order to keep up to date with a situation that is always evolving over the last two weeks, this has been especially the case for seniors’ residences.
The Record checked in with three local seniors’ residences, Le Renaissance Manoir St-Francis, Wales Home, and Grace Village to get an update on the precautions they are taking to keep their residents and care staff safe while continuing to provide the best quality of life that they can.
Out of the safety for its personnel and residents, the Manor is strictly adopting the measures put in place by the provincial government.
“We respect weekly what the government is requesting of us,” emphasized Gabriela Rotariu, Director of the Manor. “We are putting in all the measures of the government; we are making sure that residents are not very close. It’s not something easy to do but we all have to do it, not only them.”
With the cancellation of all group activities, visits from friends and family, and the regulations set in place limiting the senior population from leaving their homes, the Manor is doing its best to encourage social distancing while still providing a quality of life for its residents.
“They cannot go out unless it is for their walk and the walk has to be on the property and they have to be accompanied by an employee, these are the new regulations,” explained Rotariu. “We have been trying to entertain them differently. We have been telling them jokes every day on the intercom. We give them a surprise at 2:30 in the afternoon and this could be fudge, a popsicle, or a game. I also had an employee sing a song on the intercom the other morning.”
The Manor will also continue with their Vie Active exercise program when possible. “When we do Vie Active we are doing it outside on the balconies, when the weather permits. Not with the same intensity of course.”
The residence has a grocery delivery system in place thanks to volunteers that have offered to do residents’ grocery shopping, and they are trying to eliminate the stress surrounding the current situation as much as possibly by simply keeping in touch with residents.
“To make things less stressful we communicate with them and we talk to them very often. We knock on their doors with their present or entertainment. We communicate with them constantly.”
The Wales Home in Richmond also emphasized how communication was key in order for them to make sure that they have the situation under control and that everyone is safe.
“We have a pandemic team set in place that meet daily and reports are sent out to board members” mentioned Brendalee Piironen, Director of Wales Home. “We are issuing letters and press releases to families and we have a pandemic bulletin board in our lobby, employees are always updated.”
Rather than wait for press releases to be sent out, the Wales Home makes sure to follow the news and they act upon new developments immediately.
Many of the measures that the Wales Home currently has in place were already implemented before the Premier even announced his regulations.
“We are not taking any chances and we are minimizing the risk as much as possible,” said Piironen. “We are proud of the measures we already had in a place on a daily basis and the additional measures that are being set in place, everyone is taking this very seriously.”
Like the Manor, all visits to the Wales Home are banned unless someone is at end of their life. If that is the case, the home’s Director of Health Services will carry out an evaluation of the family member wanting to visit, asking questions like whether they have travelled recently, and if they pass the criteria they will be allowed in.
The Wales Home has upped their regular cleanings, they are consistently putting out reminders for people to follow protocols, like washing faces and hands when entering and leaving the long-term care units. There is minimal circulation in the building, and social distancing is set in stone.
That in mind, the staff are trying to keep things as normal as possible for their residents.
“The activity department is doing very small group activities and they are doing one on one activities with people in long term care,” Piironen said, explaining that residents are not allowed to leave the property but can go for supervised walks to get some fresh air.
The home’s computer specialist is also busy setting up Facetime so that residents can keep some sort of contact with their loved ones during this time.
“Want residents to have quality of life but we want them to be safe at the same time.”
Piironen expressed particular gratitude to those who are working out of necessity and to anyone making the extra effort to follow regulations out of the safety of employees and seniors.
With seniors’ residences being closed off to everyone but personnel, Grace Village is currently trying to find ways to break social isolation without compromising ministry directives.
“Before the Ministry even mandated it, we went into the first shutdown to everyone but immediate family,” said Doug Bowker, Director at Grace Village. “Then we wanted a full shutdown which was only a couple of weeks ago. We shut off all visitors, friends, family, volunteers, we shut it all down and this is terrible for our seniors. They are already isolated and now they are even more isolated.”
Having to cancel all their group activities has been a major downfall for the residence. “We had to stop all group activities, which hurt, but the two recreational staff are spending all of their time going around doing one on one activities with our residents. While we can’t do groups, they are very busy going one on one to reduce and eliminate the isolation.”
Window visits have also been set up to help curb this isolation. “We instituted an invitation to people to do window visits since all of our residents are on the ground floor. We have a schedule and family members and friends can make an appointment and come stand outside the resident’s window and talk to them on the phone.”
They have also set up a special e-mail address for family and friends to send a message and these will be printed and hand delivered to residents by care staff.
Like the Manor and the Wales Homes, Grace Village are taking the always changing measures and regulations very seriously.
All staff that are arriving for their shift are screened every day before entering the building, there are daily consultations with doctors, and residents cannot leave the property. “Because we have enclosed court yard gardens that have really good walking paths, we have left them open but we have shut down external walks.”
A certain degree of normalcy is what this residence is striving for. “We are doing everything we can to make life as normal as possible for seniors that can’t get out in a world that is completely abnormal now. The bottom line is that we have the lives of 120 seniors that we support and nothing can be put that at risk.”

Published in the Thursday, March 26 edition of The Record.

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