Friday, 29 May 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 21 2020 - Vincent Teetsov
While long-term care facilities have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1,855 active LTC resident cases in Ontario as of May 25th, the long-term care and retirement residences at Ehatare have had no known cases of COVID-19.
Beyond complying with numerous government regulations, Ehatare has made significant investments in protecting Residents and Staff. For instance, a portable room sanitizer unit was recently purchased and is being used throughout the building. Eight young members of our community have been hired to assist with rigorous screening as well as frequent and diligent cleaning of all high touch surfaces.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Ehatare implemented a single home employment policy for Staff, to reduce exposure to outbreaks taking place at other facilities. This reduction of employment has been responded to with increased hours whenever possible, to protect the livelihoods of remaining Staff. Based on recent announcements from the Government of Ontario, Ehatare expects to receive temporary additional pandemic pay funding for non-management staff.
Family visits for residents of Ehatare have been eliminated, allowing for only staff and essential visitors to enter the premises. All such visitors undergo screening questions and twice-daily temperature readings. Visitors and Staff with COVID-19 symptoms or concerns are refused entry or sent home. Similarly, if Residents leave Ehatare for any reason, they must complete a 14-day quarantine in their rooms upon their return. Sometimes Staff need to restrict interactions with their own families, to mitigate any possible transfer of the virus.
Although it has not been necessary, and despite the fact that LTC homes are not always designed with isolation in mind, financial investment has also been applied to create isolation areas for Ehatare's Nursing Home. Similarly, Ehatare has introduced dual seatings for each meal served to Retirement Home Residents in order to address social distancing concerns.
So far, these protection measures have protected the Residents of Ehatare's residences, such that zero cases of the virus have been identified at Ehatare; but the restrictions have also made it socially challenging for these very same people.
With this in mind, everyone has been working together cooperatively to sustain a warm, enriching environment, and this is why extra effort has been made to provide a variety of new activities.
As much as it is possible to continue normal life under the circumstances, Residents have been enjoying various events including socializing at happy hour, time on the backyard patio, Netflix movies on the big screen, and internally organized exercise classes. One particularly memorable event was the “Day in Paris”, where all Residents enjoyed French meals, including crêpes, coq au vin, niçoise salad with tuna steak, and crème brûlée. Live piano music floated through the air. Decorations and the French tricolore adorned Ehatare, creating a lively and diversionary atmosphere.
On a day-to-day basis, activity staff have upheld camaraderie and friendship, while determining the specific emotional and physical needs of Residents through regular individual contact by Activity Staff with all Residents. This has brought to the forefront a challenge that is difficult to solve, despite the best efforts of everyone involved: ultimately, we miss our family members. Their smiles, their jokes, their touch. During the lockdown, Residents have been able to communicate with their families using Skype, Google Duo, and by phone, of course. But close time with our loved ones is precious and limited.
In speaking with Einar Medri, CEO of Ehatare, I was told that they welcome and safely coordinate care packages, photos, cards, flowers, and more for residents. While the threat of this virus is frightening, unpredictable, and even exasperating, this is a way we can make the day-to-day more joyful for our family members.
Every single one of us has been thrown for a loop with the coronavirus. It's hard to accept. It disturbs health and everything we live for. However, until we are all able to meet again in person, let's stand behind our families and the people who take good care of them. Mr. Medri noted further that this is a time that “draws us all together as never before with a common objective of being here for our Residents, their loved ones, and by extension, the larger Estonian community that Ehatare has served for many decades.”
Photos used with permission from Ehatare.
Written by Vincent Teetsov