PEI

How some P.E.I. seniors' homes are preparing for indoor visits

Starting Friday, indoor visits will be permitted for private and public long-term care facilities under Phase 4 of the province's ease-back plan. Marion Dowling, P.E.I.'s chief of nursing, made the announcement Tuesday during a pandemic media briefing.

'Everyone is looking forward to it'

Jason Lee stands in front of Whisperwood Villa in Charlottetown. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Some Island seniors' homes are making speedy adjustments to visitation protocols in preparation for reopening indoor visitation this week.

Starting Friday, indoor visits will be permitted for private and public long-term care facilities under Phase 4 of the province's ease-back plan. Marion Dowling, P.E.I.'s chief of nursing, made the announcement Tuesday during a pandemic media briefing.

Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, which operates a number of private facilities on the Island, said staff and residents are getting excited about the change.

"Everyone is looking forward to it because it's just one more sign of getting back to what normal looks like," Lee said. 

The Chief Public Health Office closed long-term care and nursing homes to visitors in March after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the Island. Both private and public homes were placed under the public health restrictions and indoor visitation has been prohibited since. 

P.E.I. Seniors Homes operates Whisperwood Villa and Garden Home in Charlottetown and Ladyslipper Villa in O'Leary. While the announcement to allow indoor visits came only a day ago, staff in those facilities are quickly adapting to the new rules, said Lee. 

Measures for visitation

All visits will take place in a designated space inside the homes, such as a board room or activity room.

"We still have to practise social distancing," said Lee. 

Each resident will only be allowed to have two people come to the facilities for indoor visits and families will be responsible for designating which family members will be allowed to visit. (GagliardiPhotogra/Shutterstock)

He said one of the biggest challenges is finding a space that is large enough to accommodate things like wheelchairs and allow for physical distancing as people come in and out of the room.

A visitation schedule will be created so that families can sign up ahead of time. Each resident will only be allowed to have two people come to the facilities for indoor visits and families will be responsible for designating which family members will be allowed to visit. 

Lee said prior to entering the facilities, a screening process will take place. Visitors will not be allowed into the homes if they have recently travelled outside of the province or show symptoms of COVID-19. Visitors will also be required to wear a surgical mask while inside the building. 

"It is a requirement that the visitors will have to wear a surgical mask when they're inside the homes and when they're visiting with their family members. That's a little different than our outdoor visits," said Lee. 

Outdoor visits expanding

The facilities operated by P.E.I. Seniors Homes began holding outdoor visits in early June. Tents were set up and additional staff were brought on to manage the visits.

Residents were allowed up to two visitors per outdoor visit but Lee said there will soon be an option to have up to six visitors per person. 

On June 1, Ronald Peters, a resident of the Garden Home in Charlottetown, was able to visit face-to-face with his wife Shirley Doiron Peters and daughter Monica Robinson for the first time since visitation at long-term care facilities was prohibited. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

"If you've got a bigger family and you've got six people who want to get a chance to visit their loved one, that's now going to be an option for them," said Lee. 

As the restrictions ease for visitations, the homes are making more social options available to residents as well.

The dining halls in the homes are now open after being closed for three months. Physical distancing is mandatory while residents spend time in the dining halls.

Residential hairdressers have also been allowed in the homes and Lee said they've already been very busy.

"They were really missing getting their hair done and getting their haircuts," said Lee. 

One-on-one visits with members of the clergy are now permitted. Lee said church services within the homes are not yet allowed but he is hopeful they will resume shortly. 

Lee said residents and their families were told about the indoor visitations Wednesday. He said staff are still figuring out the maximum number of visits that can take place indoors. He aims to open his doors for indoor visitations on Friday.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Travis Kingdon

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