Long term care homes work hard to stay safe during pandemic

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Long term care homes have become one of most vulnerable places during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is it difficult to uphold social distancing in these homes, but they also house the province’s most atrisk population due to age and overall health.

According to the government of Ontario website, there were outbreaks of COVID-19 in 189 long term care homes across the province as of May 16. There are four long term care/retirement homes in our area, none of which have been touched by the virus so far. This is due in part to the vigilance and care being taken at many of the homes to ensure residents and staff are kept safe.

Bayfield Manor in Kemptville has been successful in keeping COVID-19 out of the facility. Executive Director, Gerry Miller, says they are keeping in contact with public health authorities and the Ministry of Health to carefully monitor the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure all necessary steps and protocols continue. This includes close monitoring of all residents and staff for symptoms, increased cleaning of high-risk areas and effective use PPE.

Gerry says a key component to their success in weathering the pandemic has been the cooperation of Bayfield staff, families, and residents. The families of their residents have been completely understanding and supportive, even though they haven’t been able to visit their loved ones during this time. Bayfield staff have been working to bridge the gap with phone calls, emails, text messaging, and video calls through Skype. Many families also come by Bayfield regularly to visit through the window. Staff will even lend their cell phones to residents so they can speak to their family at the same time. “We can’t express the gratitude we have for our staff,” Gerry says. “In these extraordinary times, and through it all, our staff have been a source of care, comfort and strength for our residents and their families.”

Gerry noted that the fact that their most recent round of COVID-19 testing for staff and residents came back negative means they are doing the right things. That being said, he is well aware of the vulnerability of long-term care homes like Bayfield, and they are remaining vigilant. “We have been fortunate to date at keeping the COVID-19 virus from entering the building. But the threat is a constant one,” he said. “Protecting the health and well-being of everyone within the Bayfield Manor and the community as a whole has always been our top priority.”

Administrator of Dundas Manor in Winchester, Susan Poirier, says they started to work on their pandemic plan in the middle of February. All staff have been fit tested for N-95 masks and an extended hand washing protocol was put into place. As the pandemic progressed in severity, staff were asked to change out of their street clothes at work, and all staff are now screened at the door every time they come in for a shift. They are also only allowed to work in one facility, according to government regulation.

Susan says social distancing has been a challenge, but they have been doing the best with what they have. They opened up their living room area as another dining room so residents could have more space at meals, and they even changed a boardroom, office, and two small living rooms into private rooms so they could isolate any resident with a potential case of COVID-19. These rooms have come in handy, as they have been used many times for residents with a-typical symptoms. “We have been very glad to have these rooms,” Susan says.

Cleaning has also been a key component of their protocol, and they have full-time day and evening cleaners who sanitize all high-risk areas from doorknobs to TV remotes.

Susan says communication with staff, residents, and their families has been key to ensure everything is running smoothly at the home. Families are not allowed to visit, but they are helping residents keep in touch with their loved ones through Facetime and lots of window visits. They are doing their best to keep Dundas Manor as homelike as possible throughout the pandemic to ensure that residents still feel safe and secure. “We are trying to keep morale up with the staff and the residents,” says Susan. “In a bad time, people are making the best of it.”

Dundas Manor has been very strongly supported by the community, with many people sending them food and PPE supplies. “People want to help,” she says. Their main goal right now is to ensure all their procedures and protocols remain in place to make sure COVID-19 stays at bay. “We have to stay vigilant to keep it out,” she says.

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