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Connecting families of long-term care residents to loved ones

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A band plays on a patio.
Local Burns Lake family music group The Hamps did their part to bring some joy to the residents at The Pines.

It can be challenging enough to have a loved one living in a long-term care home, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder, requiring visiting restrictions in Northern Health (NH) facilities to ensure the safety of long-term care residents, families, and staff.

But NH staff have shown just how much they care over the past several months, as we’ve seen new practices and innovative ideas being brought to life in long-term care homes to allow residents to stay connected to their loved ones. Our work extends past just ensuring health and safety, to making sure our residents’ happiness is taken care of as well. Positive connection to families, friends, and community is a big piece of this.

To help maintain connection to families during this time, many of our long-term care homes have been working on creating new supports, like phone and virtual solutions, as well as communicating directly with family members to explain the changes and hear their individual preferences for receiving updates and connecting to their loved ones.

We’ve shared the extra measures staff at Peace Villa have taken to keep families connected and informed, as well as the stories of support shining through at Terraceview Lodge in Terrace. Here’s a glimpse of just some of the other touching stories we’ve seen from across the region.

Rotary Manor, Dawson Creek

The staff at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek are also helping to create additional communication options between families and residents. They created an email address for friends, family, and community members to be able to send messages to their loved ones. Recreation and support staff check the email regularly and print off the special messages for the residents. Video visits with family through FaceTime are an option too.

Staff and residents have also been working together to get messages out to the community and beyond, with these special photos with their words of encouragement and this album of Rotary Manor ladies celebrating Mother’s Day!

The Pines, Burns Lake

Similarly, in Burns Lake, The Pines is welcoming residents’ families to get in touch so they can facilitate a FaceTime or Skype call with their loved ones.

Two staff members wearing masks stand around an elderly woman in a wheel chair.
The Pines resident Mrs. Hiebert enjoying a FaceTime visit with her son and daughter-in-law, with staff at her side: Marina (nurse) and Stephanie (care aide, who also happens to be her granddaughter!).

“We here at The Pines have been doing all we can to ensure families and our Elders are staying connected,” said Rachel Christie, Team Lead, The Pines.

Additionally, they organized a “physically distant music performance,” during which local family group The Hamps played music through an open door for all to enjoy. They made sure the Easter Bunny made an essential service visit over the weekend too!

Gateway, Prince George

Gateway Lodge Long-term Care has implemented video chats for residents. One NH staff member, whose mother lives with dementia at Gateway, said: “I cannot thank all the staff at Gateway enough for the love and support they are showing our mom and our family during this difficult time. We are forever grateful for the FaceTimes, emails, and texts.”

She said the staff sends her videos of her mom sometimes and allows her to send a video back. The staff has told her that her mom “just lights up and always tries to reach out and touch my hair, like she does when we’re together.”

Terrace Sunshine Centre

The Terrace Sunshine Centre runs an Adult Day Program that has unfortunately been closed during the pandemic. Tye-lee Monsen is the Activity Coordinator for the program, and although they were closed, wanted to reach out to the community seniors.

“I had been working at Terraceview Lodge where needed, but also thinking of our Sunshine Family,” said Tye-lee. “I am very blessed to work with an amazing frontline team that has gone above and beyond to provide care on a daily basis.”

Tye-lee put together activity care packages, including things like activity cards, fun quotes, adult colouring pages, craft supplies, and a personal note to deliver to local seniors, along with a bit of sunshine!

A mat has a variety of printed activities to do placed on it.
Local Burns Lake family music group The Hamps did their part to bring some joy to the residents at The Pines.

We want to thank all of staff for going above and beyond to help keep residents and their families and loved ones connected during this time!

We’ll continue to look at creative solutions to ensure connection and communication opportunities between families and residents or patients in hospitals. If you have ideas you think would work for you and your loved one, please communicate this to their health care team.