Advertisement

Welcome back: Saskatchewan care homes prepare for family visitors once more

Glenn Chernick is looking forward to visiting with his mother, who lives in a Regina retirement residence, now that the province has relaxed the restrictions around care home visits put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Glenn Chernick is looking forward to visiting with his mother, who lives in a Regina retirement residence, now that the province has relaxed the restrictions around care home visits put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Glenn Chernick / Submitted

Glenn Chernick has been waiting months to spend time with his mother at her Regina retirement residence.

“It’s pretty tough,” said Chernick, who, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, visited his mother at least once a week.

With Saskatchewan Health Authority restrictions around care homes relaxing as of Tuesday under the province’s reopening plan to permit indoor visits, Chernick is looking forward to seeing his mother face-to-face again.

Read more: Coronavirus: Some visitor restrictions eased at Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities

Although he was able to see her a couple of times from the sidewalk while she sat on a balcony, she’s hard of hearing and it was difficult to converse, he said.

Chernick said he has “all the respect in the world” for the stringent measures enacted by the government in March to keep the novel coronavirus from entering and spreading through facilities housing vulnerable seniors.

Story continues below advertisement

But at the end of the day, he’s missed that quality time with his mother and knows that she has, too.

College Park, where his mother lives, is run by the private, nationwide All Seniors Care company.

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan expanding family visits to care homes, ICU

Bruce Lillie, the regional marketing director for western Canada, said the facility is following the health authority’s guidelines and already setting up visitation appointments.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Under the province’s relaxed restrictions, two designated family members (or support persons) can be designated as visitors to a loved one in a care home, assisted-living facility or hospital. But only one can visit at a time.

Masks are mandatory and hygiene and distancing protocols need to be in place. Recognizing there are inherent challenges to bringing outsiders back in, facilities have until July 13 to establish a system that works for them.

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

Eden Care Communities, also a private company, runs different types of assisted-living facilities, long-term care homes and group homes across Saskatchewan.

Eden Care has been on high alert when it comes to the novel coronavirus. Two different staff members tested positive on two separate occasions.

Story continues below advertisement

Acutely aware of taking precautions, Eden Care has already been finding safe options to include residents’ families in socially and physically distant digital and outdoor activities.

Eden Care Communities CEO Allan Stephen.
Eden Care Communities CEO Allan Stephen. Adrian Raaber / Global News

Eden Care CEO Allan Stephen said Tuesday that outdoor visits will continue to be encouraged — and added that as of Wednesday, as long as you’re masked, “you can actually hug your loved one.”

But he said the company is still working through what indoor visits will look like with the health authority and the ministries of health and social services.

“We won’t be back to normal because this virus is still here,” said Stephen, who expects the company will be taking appointments for indoor visits by next week.

“This is all about safety right now.”

Story continues below advertisement

He anticipates indoor visits to take place in residents’ rooms and last no more than an hour. One to two days advanced notice will likely be required.

“We’re trying to crawl before we walk, before we run, because we want this to be very successful,” Stephen said.

He acknowledged the separation has been hard on families.

“Our culture of care is the elimination of boredom, helplessness… and that’s a really important piece, to have that connection,” Stephen said. “Human beings are close by nature.”