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A Prescott-Russell Residence resident communicates with a family member by video using a tablet with the help of a staff member. Photo: Used with permission of Prescott-Russell Residence/United Counties of Prescott and Russell.

Long-term care facilities adapt communication and recreation for residents during COVID-19 emergency

Having a loved one in a long-term care facility can be emotionally challenging at the best of times. As long-term care and seniors’ residences are closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult for family members to stay in contact. And the knowledge that COVID-19 poses a serious threat to this vulnerable population adds to the isolation of residents and the worry of family members living on the outside.

At Prescott-Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, several measures have been taken to allow residents and family members to keep in touch with each other.

Administrator Alexandre Gorman said that on March 16, the staff leisure team informed families to contact the residence in order to set up Skype or FaceTime video conversations by tablet with their loved ones.

Residents recently shared rainbows displaying the “It’s going to get better/Ça va bien aller” slogan that has become the message of solidarity during the pandemic.

Leisure team staff are also trying to do one-on-one activities with the residents to keep them entertained. Staff are also taking two to three residents at a time outside for fresh air, when the weather permits.

Gorman acknowledged it is difficult for family members to not be able to spend time together because of the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve sent a lot of messages to families to refrain from coming,” he said.

Other COVID-19 measures in place at Prescott-Russell Residence include creating a second staff dining room to allow for physical distancing between employees.

The residents are still permitted to dine together and are not confined to eating in their rooms.

Gorman said that trays designed for in-room dining were purchased in case a situation arises where residents must eat in their rooms.

Doctors are still making their rounds at Prescott-Russell Residence. When the COVID-19 emergency began, employees who also work at other long-term care facilities were instructed to make a choice and only work at one in order to reduce the spread of infection. Since then, a provincial order has been issued to limit long-term care staff to working at only one facility.

Transfers of residents to hospitals have been reduced unless the patient’s condition is extremely serious.

At Maxville Manor, the Recreation Department has organized many activities to ensure residents are kept entertained. One-on-one programming for individual residents includes reading, assistance with internet searches, games, music, watching church services on YouTube, and walks on the grounds when the weather is suitable.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, appointments are coordinated so that residents can have window visits with their family members, or through FaceTime. Staff also coordinate telephone calls and emails for residents. During the window visits, families have appeared playing music, dancing, and waved banners.

At Easter, each resident also sent a photo greeting to their family.

“We’ve done a lot,” said Maxville Manor Executive Director Bernard Bouchard.

Residents of The Palace Retirement Community in Alexandria now have easier access to the internet and communication with family members during the COVID-19 emergency.

A new Wi-Fi hotspot was just installed in the lounge area of the retirement and long-term care facility. The Glengarry Tartans Square Dance Club recently donated $100 toward the purchase of a tablet so residents can see and speak with family by FaceTime or by email.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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