Residents at Northcott Care Centre listen from inside as Tim Hus gives his pop up concert performance May 28. File photo

Ponoka seniors now able to have scheduled outdoor visits

Seasons Ponoka and Northcott Care Centre give updates on their residents

As the lock down stretches past the four-month mark, the isolation has taken a toll on seniors, though Ponoka retirement communities say their residents are doing as well as can be expected.

“Residents are coping the best they can with the current directives and restrictions in place,” said Tosha Serle, Northcott Care Centre’s site manager.

“They sometimes feel lonely and don’t always understand why their loved ones can’t visit, why people maintain distances and why many are wearing masks.”

Serle says the centre has had many conversations with its residents and families regarding the current situation and has also enhanced one-on-one care.

“We’ve had a full range of requests and wishes, ranging from opening up completely to not changing anything and not letting anyone in except staff and residents,” said Serle.

“We can see where the decisions on visitor restrictions in Long Term Care are so challenging for the government to implement across the board due to the vast differences that some wish to see in congregate living situations.

“The risk mitigation is particularly challenging when looking at what those living under the same roof want such different restrictions, what makes one happy may not sit well with another.”

Serle says a change in visitor policy is expected soon from Alberta Health.

In the meantime, the centre has been able to have people visit in their courtyard and some have visited through windows. All of these types of visits have been pre-arranged and following all directives, such as a two-visitor maximum.

Social interaction has also been facilitated through phone calls, Skype, video calls, emails and Facebook as well as other virtual means with the help of staff.

“It is so thrilling to see the residents face light up when they see their friends and family on the screen.”

Recreational activities have been put together to help keep up morale, resulting in “lots of smiles and laughter,” says Serle.

The centre has held crazy hair days, a beach party, Snap Chat days, hosted a pop-up concert by Direct Energy and Miss Rodeo Canada rode her horses around the facility. There have also been staff appreciation give-aways, impromptu music and dance in hallways and lounges, as well as staff volunteering their time playing violins and the piano.

Currently, residents are encouraged to stay on the property except for necessity, such as medical appointments, and are isolated immediately if they develop any symptoms from a list provided in their directive. Residents are screened daily.

“When a site is under investigation or on outbreak and for residents who are isolated, arrangements are made to support residents in obtaining necessities without leaving the site.”

CEO of Seasons Retirement Communities Mike Lavallée provided a statement on behalf of Seasons Ponoka.

““We continue to follow the advice of provincial and federal governments, our sector regulators, and local Public Health agencies including the restrictions set in place by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services,” said Lavallée.

“If residents need to leave the premises for essential reasons, they must complete a health screening checklist upon their return to our home.”

They are also being required to wear a mask at all times, practice physical distancing, and proper hand hygiene while out in public, unless there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in their retirement home.

Seasons is following protocols to ensure physical distancing, such as allowing only two residents per table in the dining room, and they both must live on the same floor. They are also limiting organized activities to five people.

Residents are now able to schedule outdoor visits with their designated essential visitors.

“We understand that this time spent apart from our loved ones continues to be difficult; we want people to remember that while you may be apart from your loved one, they are not alone at Seasons,” said Lavallée.

“Our dedicated staff are working around the clock to ensure that our residents are engaged, healthy, and cared for.”

Temperature and wellness checks are conducted twice daily, snacks are provided via room service and medications are delivered either in-suite or at dining times, as needed.

“We continue to remain COVID-19 free and look forward to returning to regular operations as soon as it is deemed safe for us to do so. We appreciate the patience and cooperation being displayed in the meantime.”

A recent Seasons news release provided five methods for helping seniors stay connected:

1. Loving letters – A handwritten note to your loved one can be much more meaningful than a quick text. Try taking pen to paper to show how much you care.

2. Special delivery – from flowers to family cookie recipes, there’s nothing more uplifting than a personal care package. Source local products to spread the love even further through the community.

3. Facing new technology – For tech-savvy seniors, video tools like Zoom and FaceTime offer a way to get as close as possible to a face-to-face meeting.

4. Shared project – Keep retired relatives engaged by tapping into their wisdom. Ask them to help on a shared project, whether it’s a journal about your family history, or transcribing a handed-down recipe that you want to pass on.

5. In person – Schedule a visit with your loved one. There are government-imposed regulations in place when visiting those in retirement homes, in order to keep staff and residents safe. Call your local retirement community for the guidelines.

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