Late on Friday afternoon I had, as the title suggests, a wonderful surprise. I received an email from Upper Canada Lodge: ‘Reinstalling Outdoor Visits in Long Term Care — May 21, 2021.
Attached was a letter from Henri Koning, director of senior services, regarding changes to these visits that had recently been announced by the province. This is what a number of us, with parents or relatives in Upper Canada Lodge and other long-term care facilities, had been waiting for.
What was especially wonderful is how quickly the staff at Upper Canada Lodge (UCL) had reacted to this surprising announcement preceding a long weekend. We understand this may not have been possible at a number of other long-term care facilities in the province.
Management had “quickly arranged for extra staff to be available on the weekend to assist with facilitating the visiting,” the email said. After reading it, I did not hesitate to call UCL to make arrangements for my brother and I to have an outdoor visit with our mother at 10:30 a.m. the next day.
As with many of us in this situation, the pandemic has made it very difficult, or, in many cases, impossible to actually have physical contact with our loved ones in long-term care homes. Rules that came out to protect them during the pandemic may have been felt to be draconic. They did, however, help the situation after hearing about the long-term care horror stories throughout the province during the first and second waves. We, the residents and families of the Upper Canada Lodge, have been very fortunate. The actions taken by the region and the wonderful staff at UCL resulted in no outbreaks in the home during the entire length of the pandemic. Our family members were kept very comfortable, safe and well looked after.
We continued to have contact by telephone with Mom, of course. She enjoys the calls and always inquired how we were all doing, especially her great-grandchildren. She was especially appreciative of our daily calls to remind her when her favourite TV shows were coming on, especially Coronation Street. The home was able to institute FaceTime calls once a week, and we looked forward to these sessions. It was nice to be able to share photos of the family during these FaceTime calls.
Mom is not able to phone her younger brother or older sister who live in Scotland. We would do that for her during visits, before the pandemic, and she would be able to speak with them. They do phone her, but it is often hit or miss due to the time difference and if she is sleeping during the day. That regular contact with her siblings is one thing she has missed. We have also found it difficult to bring things in to her, like snacks that she once enjoyed. Items like this are dropped off and the staff holds them for two days before they are delivered to her room. Her memory is such that she does not remember if she got them, however. Another difficulty has been trying to buy her new clothes. Having to order items online, delivering them and then being unable to see if they fit correctly has been a concern. But the staff has been helpful.
Our visit on Saturday was very nice. Protocol remained that we were actively screened by staff upon arrival, masked, and were asked to maintain physical distancing while on our outside visit. Currently, two general visitors is the maximum allowed at any one time. Staff had arranged comfortable seating areas at the front of the building. We could see others who were also taking advantage of the opportunity to visit loved ones.
It was a lovely morning and my brother and I were both appreciative of the staff for being able to visit our mother after so many months.