Retirement homes across B.C. are taking extra precautions to protect seniors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After news of the coronavirus cases at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, care homes across the province, such as the Berwick Retirement Communities and Atria Retirement Canada, began taking proactive precautions at “hyper-speed,” explained Victoria-based Berwick spokesperson Lesley Sikorski.
COVID-19 was on staff’s radar for weeks, she noted, because in order to protect the vulnerable senior population, extra supplies needed to be ordered, hand sanitizer stations needed to be set up and extra cleaning crews needed to be hired.
“Safety of residents and staff is paramount,” she said. “We’re going over and above what needs to be done.”
To protect residents and staff from infection, the care home chain has asked that only essential visits be made and a “pre-screening process” has been implemented for everyone who enters the facilities – including staff, delivery workers and cleaning personnel, Sikorski explained. The screening includes a series of questions to “to reduce the risk of potential exposure to infection from the community.”
Answering yes to any of the questions results in the visitor being asked to stay away for two weeks, Sikorski explained.
A warning on the care home chain’s website asks that essential visits take place in resident suites rather than in public areas and that guests ensure they’re healthy before coming. Hand sanitizer is also provided throughout the facilities.
All Berwick locations held meetings with residents on March 11 to explain protocols and keep residents up to date on what precautions are being taken so they can take an active role, Sikorski explained. They were shown a video on proper hand-washing techniques, given a refresher on “cough etiquette” and walked through an outbreak scenario.
According to a letter sent to residents and their families and friends, all community events, large-group outings, private dining events, guest meals and guest suite stays have also been cancelled.
Sikorski said Berwick residents are concerned but they are pleased with the open communication. She added they’ve taken the situation very seriously and gotten on board with safety protocols.
“They’ve been supporting each other,” Sikorski said.
She pointed out that the situation is changing on a daily basis but that Berwick is taking steps to limit risk, connecting with other care homes to see what they’re doing and keeping residents and their families up to date.
Currently, Sikorski feels “confident in the steps taken” to manage risks for residents.