Nursing homes close dining rooms as COVID-19 precautions increase
'There's been some really difficult situations … and that's what we're trying to avoid'
Long-term care facilities on P.E.I. are taking more steps to ensure their residents are as safe as possible from COVID-19 — moving to providing more services in people's rooms in order to maintain as much physical distancing as possible.
As of April 1, P.E.I. has 21 cases of COVID-19. None has been identified as being in long-term care facilities, and the facilities want to keep it that way — they had already enhanced cleaning protocols and stopped allowing outside visitors.
"Our dining room, which is used by probably the majority of our residents every day, has been closed in our nursing homes," said Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes.
Meals for residents at Lady Slipper Villa, Whisperwood Villa and Garden Home will now be delivered to residents in their rooms, limiting the large gatherings during meal times in the facilities.
Activities are changing as well. Staff at P.E.I. Seniors Homes facilities are working to find ways for residents to continue activities, but six feet apart, designating places on the floor where residents can stand the required distance from each other.
Other activities that normally had residents in close contact with each other, like bingo, are being modified so they can be done from the resident's rooms.
"It's basically corridor bingo. So everybody can play bingo in their own room. They can even [play] in the doorway if they want to be able to see their neighbours," Lee said.
"We're getting innovative and improvising to make sure people are still socializing."
Residents in those facilities are still able to go for a walk, and leave their rooms on their own if they choose.
Lee said these policies are in line with the importance placed on physical distancing by the Chief Public Health Office, and in response to what the company is seeing at other nursing homes across the country.
"There's been some really difficult situations out there and that's what we're trying to avoid," he said.
"So we're doing our research, and we're learning what has worked for others and we're following those best practices."
Similar policies have been put in place at Andrews Senior Care, another company with several long-term care facilities on the Island. In a letter to its families and staff, the company said it was escalating its pandemic response plan.
"This move is in response to the new cases of COVID-19 and the increasing risk of community transmission," the company wrote.
Common areas closed
At those facilities, common areas are now closed and meals are being delivered to residents in their rooms, the company said.
"Residents will be asked to remain in their rooms to prevent the possible spread of infection."
It will also be refraining from group activities, restricting mail delivery and continually monitoring staff that come in and out of the facilities.
Residents in Andrews Senior Care facilities will be able to leave their room to go for a walk, with a staff member.
Those policies will be in effect in Andrews' facilities for two weeks, and re-evaluated at that time, the letter said.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.