Novel coronavirus outbreaks in long-term care homes continue to dominate news headlines. Understandably, employees at assisted living facilities and retirement communities across the country are worried. And at the same time, those seeking employment in the senior living industry might be giving these types of work environments a pass, at least for now.
As an independent senior living provider in Vancouver B.C., PARC wants to assure its employees, as well as new recruits, that the safety, health and well-being of all team members and residents is its number one priority. To that end, PARC has both stepped up and implemented protective measures across its five B.C. residences to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
That said, it’s important to note that most COVID-19 deaths at seniors’ residences have occurred in long-term care homes. The majority of residents at those facilities have underlying medical issues, making them more susceptible to serious complications from novel coronavirus. In contrast, PARC caters to a healthier, more independent population at its retirement communities – all of which remain COVID-19 free.
Also good news for existing and incoming staff: B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and Emergency Management BC have deemed PARC a level one essential service provider. That’s due to the fact that PARC residents are seniors, considered an at-risk demographic. As a result, rather than laying off employees like so many other businesses have had to do, PARC is seeking passionate and dedicated people to join its growing team.
Read on to see what PARC is doing to help keep current and future employees safe:
Frequent sanitization of common areas and surfaces
Science shows that regular sanitization of surfaces reduces the spread of COVID-19. In response, PARC has expanded staffing hours and levels to make sure its buildings are kept extra sanitized from top to bottom. Particular attention is being given to high-traffic zones, including reception areas with high-touch points like front desks.
To cover the extended cleaning duties, PARC is actively recruiting temporary and permanent staff members.
Restricting entrance to essential visitors only
Only employees and residents, and essential visitors like health care providers and delivery workers, are currently permitted to enter PARC residences. In addition, a new single-entry system gives reception control of anyone requesting access to enter, with essential visitors required to check in and complete a declaration form. Those who pose a risk – they’re experiencing symptoms or have travelled recently – will be denied entry.
Further to flattening the curve, family members and friends of PARC residents are not allowed to visit at this time. And while residents are free to go outside their building for walks and fresh air while practicing social distancing, employees are strongly discouraging offsite visits and non-essential appointments.
Enforcing physical distancing and other practices
In keeping with the PHO’s protective measures against novel coronavirus, all PARC communities are observing physical distancing. PARC recently launched a sticker and poster campaign to help reinforce this practice. Colourful floor stickers have been placed six feet apart in common areas where residents interact or have to wait in line, and in high-traffic work areas. These include elevators, dining room entrances, reception areas, manager offices, staff rooms and kitchens. Posters with similar messaging line the walls.
High-touch areas like housekeeping rooms, kitchen doors and gyms have also been flagged with stickers, reminding employees to wash their hands often. More posters advocate washing hands for 20 seconds, sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue and not touching your face. As well, specific employee posters acknowledge their important role (“Frontline workers like you will help defeat COVID-19”), while stickers worn by staff (“PARC Frontline Hero,” “Champion Social Distancer”) help them lead by example.
Additional protection in masks and plexiglass
While masks can’t protect you against COVID-19, they can help protect those around you, as announced by Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers and echoed by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. As such, PARC is gradually implementing the wearing of washable or disposable masks to help protect employees in certain positions. The company is mindful of not using N95 masks, which are needed by frontline health care workers.
PARC has also installed plexiglass windows at reception areas to keep both residents and staff safe.
Reducing the risk of cross-infection
It’s now recognized that shared health care workers can promote the transmission of COVID-19 and increase the risk of infection between facilities. In response, Dr. Henry has issued a provincial order requiring seniors’ residences and other healthcare-based employers to limit previously shared employees to one location only.
PARC has followed through by asking regular, part-time and casual employees if they’d be willing to increase their hours at PARC and not work elsewhere. The company has also asked employees who might have been exposed to novel coronavirus to stay at home. In addition, PARC has ceased sharing employees across its communities until the order has been lifted. PARC continues to work closely with health authorities and private care providers to make sure each residence is serviced by specific dedicated workers as needed.
Providing mental health resources
Working during these challenging times can be mentally exhausting. While it’s normal to experience higher levels of stress, anxiety and grief, PARC wants employees to know they’re not alone. PARC believes in the importance of caring for each other, and has provided a variety of resources that employees might find helpful:
- Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has posted modules on Mental Health 101 and Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Shoppers Drug Mart recently launched its COVID-19 Mental Health program.
- Anxiety Canada offers a multitude of self-care tips.
- Here to Help covers COVID-19 and anxiety.
- Harvard Business Review explores managing grief during COVID-19 in That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.
This is a summary of PARC’s protective measures to date. The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, and PARC will continue to monitor it and make adjustments as needed.
Interested in a career in independent senior living? Passionate about making a difference in older adults’ lives? Visit Careers at PARC to peruse a range of positions at resort-style properties throughout the Lower Mainland.