Slapped with sweeping visitor restrictions amid the coronavirus threat, London-area long-term care homes are turning to Skype and social media to keep their residents connected.
Blue Water Rest Home in Zurich has been ramping up the number of video chats between residents and their loved ones in the last week, bringing them some joy amid the uncertainty.
“The residents are just in absolute awe of the technology available to bring them closer to their family members,” therapy services coordinator Marissa Scott said in an email. “Some of them have even called it magic to see someone who isn’t here.”
With the visitor ban barring volunteers from running Sunday services, several local religious leaders have stepped up to the plate too, recording devotionals to which residents can listen.
“This has gone over so well with our residents,” Scott said. “It is so heartwarming to see the community work together to provide for our residents at a time when they feel vulnerable.”
Ontario’s long-term care system includes more than 600 homes and nearly 80,000 residents. On Tuesday, the province announced a new slate of measures to keep long-term care residents safe from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The province is now restricting long-term care residents from doing off-site visits. They are permitted to go outside but must stay on the facility’s property, the provincial government announced Tuesday. Existing restrictions on non-essential visitors to long-term care homes remain in place.
Earlier this month, B.C. declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a North Vancouver long-term care home. The province has reported nine deaths linked to the long-term care outbreak to date. On Tuesday, an Oshawa nursing home reported its first COVID-19-related death.
Residents need to feel connected and in touch with their families now more than ever, said Sheena Campbell, director of communications for PeopleCare.
The company operates six retirement and long-term care homes in Southwestern Ontario, including PeopleCare Oakcrossing in London.
The London long-term care facility is taking to Facebook and Twitter, posting photos of its residents with messages for their loved ones online.
“Our staff are doing a great job. They’re keeping residents’ spirits up,” Campbell said. “We’ve had amazing response from our families and from our community,” Campbell said. “This is really resonating with people, they’re responding.”
PeopleCare is inviting the public to send letters and messages to show residents people are thinking of them. They’ve set up a dedicated email for messages of love and support, Campbell said.
Like Blue Water Rest Home, staff at PeopleCare Oakcrossing have been setting up video calls for residents, Campbell said.
This week, the London long-term care home is streaming a live online musical performance for its residents.
”This is about more than just physical care. It’s about comfort. It’s about emotional wellbeing,” Campbell said.
Each day we will have a rundown of our latest coverage on the London-area fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic
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