Nova Scotia long-term care homes get creative in preparation for visits to resume this week

Click to play video: 'Long-term care home visits resume in Nova Scotia' Long-term care home visits resume in Nova Scotia
After two months of lockdown, families and friends of long-term care facility residents can visit. Elizabeth McSheffrey has more. – Jun 15, 2020

Outdoor visits to long-term care homes in Nova Scotia officially started on Monday, but in their efforts to make reunions safe and appealing for both residents and guests, some facilities are taking a little more time to prepare.

The Dykeland Lodge in Windsor, for example, will allow visitors beginning this Thursday. Between now and then, it will set up a large, three-sided plexiglass cube that will shield residents from their loved ones, but allow closer contact.

Dykeland Lodge administrator Krista Beeler said it will be “done up with fancy filigree” to enhance the experience for all.

“They will actually be able to get fairly close, so pretty much nose to nose, and at that point, they can then pull their mask down so they can see their loved one’s face for the first time.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — No new cases reported in Nova Scotia for six days straight

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That creates additional appeal, she added, for residents who have difficulty hearing through the muffling of a mask or may not recognize loved ones who are wearing one.

If the model is successful, she said, the home hopes to add disposable gloves that would “poke through” the plexiglass, and allow families to experience a much-needed hug.

“It’ll be on casters, so it’ll be movable as well, if we want to move locations,” Beeler said.

“I think we want (residents) to be somewhat surprised that they’re actually going to be able to see their loved one’s face.”

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As it stands, there are only three active cases of COVID-19 in the province, none of which are in long-term care homes.

Click to play video: 'Federal government working to support seniors during COVID-19 pandemic' Federal government working to support seniors during COVID-19 pandemic
Federal government working to support seniors during COVID-19 pandemic – Jun 15, 2020

The Oakwood Terrace Nursing Home in Dartmouth is also taking a creative approach to welcoming back visitors. The facility has ordered a large, marquis-style tent that it will pitch in the gardens, meaning visits can take place rain or shine.

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“Every facility is built somewhat differently, so it’s about covered space,” explained Oakwood Terrace administrator Anthony Taylor.

“Our issue was, we didn’t want to be cancelling appointments when it was, say, raining on the day.”

The home aims to welcome family members back toward the end of June and is asking them to monitor its Facebook page for details on how to book an appointment.

The Ocean View Continuing Care Home has confirmed it will begin reunions next week. Families of residents are asked to call the home, starting June 22, to book an appointment and answer pre-screening COVID-19 questions.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia eases long-term care visitor restrictions, begins reporting active cases

Visits began Monday at Northwood Halifax and at the Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow, which celebrated its re-opening to family members in style.

It painted parking spaces with flowers and sunshine to designate visitation spots, and brought the town crier in to ring the bells for the facility’s first guests.

“We’ve had great reception and we have visits all day today and we actually have them booked all week,” said Glen Haven Manor CEO Lisa Smith.

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“We can do seven visits a day at each spot, so that’s 21 visits a day, so it’s been pretty busy.”

Family members visit a loved one at the Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow, N.S. on June 15, 2020 — the first day visits have been allowed in Nova Scotia since the pandemic lock down began. Kim Dickson/Glen Haven Manor

Restrictions for visiting loved ones in long-term care homes in Nova Scotia include appropriate physical distancing, non-medical face masks, and passing all the required COVID-19 screening tests and measures.

No more than two people may visit a resident at once, and it must be the same two people at every visit.

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