By this point, it is a fair assumption that every group in society has been experiencing some form of loneliness and isolation. That’s especially true for seniors, who are also most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus – even more so for those living in long-term care and retirement homes.
That reality is abundantly clear to Penny Silva, administrator at Chartwell Elmira residence. Still, she hasn’t heard too many issues raised about the lockdown in that long-term care environment, where residents seem to be coping well.
“There is nothing but gratitude. I think they are doing really well – I haven’t heard anything otherwise,” she said of the many community members who are keen to work with staff and understand the difficulties staff face to keep them safe.
Some of the significant adjustments for seniors in these communities include separation from family and peers, along with changes to the daily routine.
“They will come down in the morning and still get to see people speak to them from a distance keeping their two metres, six feet. Then they have their meals, and then they go up to their rooms. When the weather is nice, our activity people likely have signup sheets, so we will take residents out if they want to go out for a walk on our own property, keeping the distance. … We have a courtyard in the back so we will take the residents out to get a little bit of Vitamin D and some sunshine and then come back to the community,” she explained of the new routine.
Chartwell Elmira has provided its residents with activities they can partake in from the comfort of their rooms. They have DVDs that include church services to help them maintain a connection to their religious practices. As well, Chartwell is working with the residents to bring in items they might want from the outside world, such as specific types of cereal or bread. She asks residents and family members to let staff know, saying they will do their best to meet the needs and want.
While visiting has been all but eliminated, residents are not as lonely as one might assume, as they are having window visits from family members.
“We have window visits, and family members will come in, and they can talk to them through the window. I’ve encouraged family members to bring signs up and stuff like that and put it on their windows so they can see it from the inside out.”
For those that are unable to have family visits the homes set up online calls through iPads. Silva reflected on a large extended family experience at the beginning of pandemic of a video call with some 50 members, as an example.
Providing both socialization and connectivity for the residents is key, said Silva.
“We will do whatever it takes to keep the residents as connected as we can.”
The public may have concerns for residents at long-term care and retirement facilities, but Silva says she and the organization are constantly contacting family members of residence. Monthly and weekly newsletters are being sent to family members explaining how things are going.
“If a resident is very ill and they are palliative, those visitors are allowed to come in and visit time with them,” she said, noting the importance of lines of communication, and asking those with any concerns to phone her.
“All in all, I am so pleased with how our community is handling this with the support from the family members,” she said, noting the staff love working with residents. “It doesn’t feel like work. They understand if there is anything that we can do, we are doing it for them.”
The residents in turn response to the environment.
“Even if they can’t see their loved ones, they are not alone, and they feel it and know it.”