We have watched with concern the unfolding story of COVID-19 and its impact on how we have come to expect to live our lives.
We have been dismayed to see one of our most vulnerable populations put at risk, when the virus is inadvertently brought into our Long Term Care (LTC) facilities - often by staff working in multiple locations. And recent stories of conditions uncovered in some homes have made us ask questions about how we care for our frail elders, and what changes we need to make in the current system. But there are positive stories about our elders living in care that are not being told.
Here is one of them:
St. Michael’s Centre (SMC) is a 128-bed, not-for-profit, LTC facility in South Burnaby. We are also home to a 16-bed hospice - supporting patients and their families through the dying process. We have experienced many stresses and concerns as a direct result of the virus: staff shortages, dwindling PPE supplies, changes to routines, and the extra budgetary pressures created by the pandemic. But we are united in continuing to work toensure a holistic vision of care, which supports the whole person, rather than focusing only on the physical needs of the individual.
A LTC facility is often a community in which residents, their family members, and those who care for them form relationships of mutual affection. In this time of isolation when our elders are missing their families and visits from loved ones, these “friendships” can provide them with a sense of continuity and connection to the outside world. Staff also use iPads so elders can see the faces of loved ones, and chat with them online. All of our disciplines are finding creative ways to help our elders remain engaged and active, while maintaining safety and social distancing measures.
St. Michael’s Centre is a community within the larger community of our neighbourhood and our city. We are grateful to those who support us: the Burnaby Hospital Foundation who provided non-perishable snacks for our staff; Steve’s Poke Bar and Little Minh’s Kitchen, for donations of meals; members of our Board of Directors, who collaborated with staff to procure 150 pairs of protective goggles; and to Rosalie Carver and Michael Viens, daughter and son-in-law of a SMC resident, both musicians who performed a patio concert which our residents were able to enjoy at a safe distance (see picture). This generosity helps keep staff and resident morale high, despite the added stresses of the pandemic.
The SMC Board and leadership conclude their COVID-19 updates by saying: “Everyone is doing their best to ensure our residents don’t experience isolation, loneliness and sadness.” At St. Michael’s the “bottom line” is always about the health and well-being of our elders, their family members, and our staff.
To enable our elders and their family members to have the last word, I include these quotes:
“Staff have been seeing us through this pandemic with kindness and compassion…risking their own health to keep us looked after…” - Margaret
“All the staff are making it feel like this is our home…staff care for us like we are their parents.” - Jackie
“I call St. Michael’s staff St. Michael’s Angels…” - Anonymous
“The staff…have gone out of their way to accommodate my requests…” - Barry
“Thank you to all the staff for everything they do for us throughout the pandemic…” - Andrew
“All in all the staff have been excellent.” - Ted
“Thank you very much for your hard work, kindness and compassion in this time of need…” and “I applaud and fully support your brave decision to keep staff and residents safe. Well done.” - (Family)
Rev. Trudi Shaw, Board of Directors at St. Michael’s Centre