This has been a challenging time in PARC Retirement communities. Since seniors are among the most vulnerable to life-threatening complications of the COVID-19 virus, we have been taking staunch measures to protect our residents, working to balance their desire to live independently while implementing our outbreak-prevention policies.
We continue to work hard at keeping our residents and staff healthy and safe during the pandemic – and we couldn’t do it without the tireless efforts of our dedicated frontline staff.
Here are some of the steps we’re taking to ensure the safety of our communities:
Allowing only essential visitors and outings
For the foreseeable future, we are limiting non-essential visits to our communities. Anyone who must enter the premises will have to sign a risk declaration, and we have implemented a “single entry” system, so that reception can closely monitor essential visitors and residents who are requesting access to enter.
For now, we’re also asking family members not to take residents out of the community if they plan to bring them back, because this poses a high risk for other residents and our employees. We’re strongly encouraging residents to stay in their residences and go outside for walks only. Of course, if anyone is displaying symptoms or has been in contact with a high-risk area and/or person, they must self-isolate for 14-days in their suite.
We’ve added extra sanitizing procedures in all of our residences, flagging common areas and high-frequency touch points – such as reception desks (where we have also added plexiglass barriers) – for special attention. This practice reduces the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading through survival on surfaces. To achieve this level of sanitization, we have increased our staffing levels and hours dedicated to routinely sanitizing our buildings from top to bottom. We have even recruited new team members to join us on a temporary or permanent basis to make sure we have enough resources to cover these additional sanitization duties to keep our residences safe.
Mandating physical distancing
In order to further reduce person-to-person contact, we’ve implemented physical distancing in our dining rooms and common amenity areas. We have redesigned the dining service model to ensure that residents maintain physical distancing of two metres. Although it’s difficult for food servers to maintain this distance during their duties, we are following all government guidelines in our dining areas, such as frequent and thorough hand-washing, and staff will now be required to wear masks. We have placed physical-distancing reminder stickers and posters in areas where people usually congregate, such as reception, dining entrances, inside and outside elevators, parking garage vestibules, fitness centres, and multi-purpose rooms. Any remaining group activities have been capped at a maximum of 10 participants; all physically distanced.
Requiring employees to wear masks
Recently Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer gave new advice on masks, stating that Canadians can wear a face mask to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus in situations where they can’t ensure proper physical distance. Given this change of position, PARC has implemented the mandatory use of masks by our staff to further protect residents from potential asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals.
We’ll be rolling out masks on a graduated basis across all our residences, in the order outlined below. This will help us avoid disrupting the flow of personal protective equipment, like N95 masks, from emergency frontline care and hospital workers who need it most urgently.
First Priority for Masks
Staff who have ongoing close contact with residents and where the possibility of physical distancing is limited:
- Food and beverage servers and restaurant managers/supervisors
- Kitchen staff
- Wellness nurses
- Reception staff
- Third-party home support and care providers
Staff who have periodic or less frequent interactions with residents:
- Active Living Managers and Fitness Leaders
- Maintenance staff
- Management and administrative teams
Reducing employee points of contact
PARC is an independent living provider; however, some of our residents may require assistance from home support services. These residents can arrange their support services on a private-pay basis with a third-party provider or through a funded relationship with the local health authority. These home support services are similar to the services our residents could receive if they lived in their own homes. To limit the number of care providers entering our communities, PARC went a step further in protecting residents by using a single private care provider with dedicated staff exclusively at each of our PARC residences.
As a result of the Provincial Order that employees cannot work at more than one senior residence, or for more than one health care employer, we have also asked our regular, part-time, and casual employees if they would be willing to increase their hours at PARC, so they don’t have to work elsewhere. To ensure the safety of all our residents and staff, we’ve asked employees who have had any risk of exposure to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. We have also stopped sharing employees between PARC Retirement Living communities until the Provincial Order is lifted.
Adding more lines of communication
In this stressful time, our goal is to keep residents and their loved ones as informed as possible. We send weekly email updates and have also set up a private Family of Residents Facebook page where we’re answering questions from family members in a timely manner, and also taking feedback and suggestions.
Helping residents socialize and shop online
The best way for friends and loved ones to connect during this challenging time is virtually. Our Active Living Managers have been helping residents sign up for and learn how to use video conferencing apps such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and Houseparty. We have numerous new iPads for each residence, pre-loaded with apps, that residents can sign out library-style and use to connect with their families and friends (these will be sanitized before and after each use). We’re also teaching residents how to better use email, including platforms such as Gmail, Yahoo, Telus, and Shaw, plus social media platforms like Facebook and social games such as Words with Friends (online Scrabble).
Our staff have been helping our seniors do their grocery shopping online, to avoid busy grocery stores as much as possible. We have also expanded our in-house grocery and essentials list, from which residents can order for delivery to their suites – once again assisting residents with the stay-at-home suggestions from the government.
Working with suppliers to stock essential items
We know it’s difficult right now to obtain essential items such as shampoo, soap, and toilet paper, so we’ve taken extra measures to ensure we have these items on hand, and we’re also helping residents order such products online. Residents’ families can also drop off essential supplies for their loved ones by calling ahead and setting up a time to make a contactless drop in front of the building.
We hope these measures give our residents some peace of mind about their health and safety. This has been a challenging time, and we want our residents and families to know we care about every one of them.
PARC Retirement Living is an independent-living community for aging adults. As such, we’re gathering resources to help seniors cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit parcliving.ca/COVID19 to learn more.