Nova Scotia

Nursing homes get creative to keep families connected during COVID-19

From window meetings to virtual meetups, nursing homes have come up with ways to keep residents connected to their families despite visitors being banned from their facilities.

'Even though they're going to be separated by glass at least they can hear and see one another'

Dykeland Lodge in Windsor, N.S., has set up a meeting window where its residents can meet with family members without being exposed to COVID-19. (Submitted by Krista Beeler)

Some families in Nova Scotia have started tramping through flower beds and gardens to stand outside the windows of their loved ones in nursing homes.

They're trying to stay connected after public health officials ordered the province's 97 long-term care facilities to shut their doors to visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The virus is especially dangerous to the elderly and people with underlying health problems. 

The new restrictions on visits have led to staff at the facilities to come up with creative ways to keep their residents from feeling isolated. 

Dykeland Nursing Home in Windsor, N.S., has cleared out an office on the ground floor to give families the face-to-face time they crave. Outside the large office window two chairs have been set up for families. On the inside a resident can use a phone to talk to them.

"Even though they're going to be separated by glass at least they can hear and see one another, they're inches away. We hope that's really going to help," said Krista Beeler, the administrator at Dykeland Lodge. 

The window meeting room has been set aside for 30-minute meetings between residents and their loved ones. Dykeland Lodge hopes 10 visitors a day will be able to meet with residents this way. (Submitted by Krista Beeler)

At another nursing home a family sent flowers and birthday cake to a resident and then went outside to her window to sing happy birthday, according to Michele Lowe, managing director of the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association. 

"That may very well be part of the new norm moving forward, is that families have to have that eye contact and they know they can't go inside the nursing home. But if they know that they can look up and see mom or dad and wave I think that provides some needed connection," said Lowe. 

Many nursing homes have set up more recreation events to keep residents entertained as the visitor ban continues. (Submitted by Krista Beeler)

Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow, N.S., is even looking at boosting its staffing numbers to give its residents more one-on-one time to better cope with the isolation. 

One-on-one time can involve staff sitting and chatting with a resident, playing cards or doing other activities a resident enjoys.       

Glen Haven hopes it will be able to find up to 30 or so individuals who have been put out of work by the coronavirus to fill its ranks. Many industries across the province have shut down as a precaution to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

"Hearing that others have been advised that they're going to be without work for at least a couple of weeks, looking at where there might be opportunities for them to let their skill and talent and expertise be shared here at Glen Haven Manor," said Lisa Smith, CEO of Glen Haven Manor. 

Krista Beeler is the administrator of Dykeland Lodge in Windsor, N.S. (Submitted by Krista Beeler)

The new workers would be supporting staff and residents by helping feed people, make beds, and help residents use Facetime to talk with their families.

Those job postings were up less than 24 hours and the facility already had 40 applications. 

Glen Haven Manor also has a music therapist who has been trying to lift people's spirits by playing piano, guitar and fiddle in the dining and lounge areas, since community performers can no longer enter the facility. 

Along with more special events, some long-term care facilities have even bought new iPads to allow their residents to virtually meet up with their families. (Submitted by Krista Beeler )

Glen Haven and other facilities have also bought more iPads so residents can have virtual meetups with their families and have planned special recreation events to keep residents entertained. 

And many nursing home administrators are keeping in contact with each other to brainstorm even more ideas. 

"It has been wonderful to see the team work and people working together and the sharing of best practices throughout the province to protect Nova Scotia's most vulnerable, it's pretty heart warming," said Beeler. 

Lisa Smith is the CEO of Glen Haven Manor. (Submitted by Glen Haven Manor)