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Seniors, care homes in Saskatchewan find new ways to connect during COVID-19 pandemic

Residents at Saskatoon's Sherbrooke Community Centre are finding ways to stay connected.
Residents at Saskatoon's Sherbrooke Community Centre are finding ways to stay connected. Sherbrooke Community Centre / Facebook

Verna Betker, her sister and sister-in-law all reside in the same assisted living complex in Regina — just on different floors.

“When you live in a seniors’ home like we do, there isn’t a heck of a lot we can do except stay isolated,” the 87-year-old said in a phone call Wednesday.

Residents at Broadway Terrace have been self-isolating and physically distancing for weeks.

READ MORE: Halifax group starts letter-writing initiative for seniors facing loneliness amid COVID-19 pandemic

On Monday morning, Betker called her sister with an idea. Soon, residents on all 11 floors of the complex were in on the plan.

“Everybody seemed to be really enthusiastic about doing something, because you feel kind of helpless in here,” said Betker.

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That evening, at 7 p.m., the seniors all stepped out on their balconies with kitchenware in hand for a noisy salute to essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How Saskatchewan communities are spreading kindness during a pandemic

“I was using two lids off two of my sauce pans … there was bells, there were whistles, wooden spoons on metal lids. There was just a lot of variety,” Betker said.

The seniors have committed to performing the salute every Monday at 7 p.m., and hope others will join.

“Even people who don’t live in places like we do with balconies, if they can just come out on their lawn or wherever, we’d like to get it going through the whole city.”

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Eden Care Communities, which operates Broadway Terrace, shared video of the salute on Facebook.

“The message they wanted to send is a message of hope. That we will get through this,” said Alan Stephen, Eden Care Communities CEO.

Stephen said Eden Care’s pandemic planning started March 1. Visitors and volunteers are not allowed at this time, while residents and staff have been following health guidelines on self-isolating and physical distancing for the last 15 days.

“With self-isolation comes the plagues of loneliness, boredom and helplessness,” said Stephen, adding residents are using video chat apps more during this time.

READ MORE: The best video call apps for large meetings, parties during coronavirus outbreak

“It’s really important that the resident and the family get to talk to each other. It’s a really difficult time.”

Eden Care Communities also offer residents creative arts programs that respect social distancing with the help of technology.

“You can play games with one another, but be in different rooms and still having that fun,” Stephen said.

Click to play video 'Sherbrooke community centre’s protecting seniors from COVID-19' Sherbrooke community centre’s protecting seniors from COVID-19
Sherbrooke community centre’s protecting seniors from COVID-19

Connections strong at Saskatoon long-term care home

At Saskatoon’s Sherbrooke Community Centre, staff are co-ordinating video chat requests with seniors and assisted living residents who are also adhering to health guidelines.

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Shelby Hatchen hasn’t been able to visit her mom, who resides at Sherbrooke, for the last few weeks.

“She calls in the morning, she calls around supper time, she calls before bed. We talk every day,” Hatchen said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: London firefighters, police, paramedics show support for health-care workers

Last week, staff posted a smiling photo of Hatchen’s mother, who lives with multiple sclerosis, holding a white board and a personalized message for her daughter on Facebook.

“To see that photo, I cried. Like I cried for several hours,” said Hatchen, adding she came across the photo while scrolling on the social media site.

“I was grateful, but also just happy to see she was healthy … it was just awesome, I can’t explain. I had goosebumps, I had chills all over my body, I was crying. It was really, really, special.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.