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Airdrie senior homes adjust to keep residents safe

Airdrie’s retirement homes and senior care facilities are doing everything they can to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to staff.

At the Hamlets at Cedarwood Station retirement home, general manager Loy Pacheco said several new measures have been implemented to protect the 85 residents. She said the facility is currently in lockdown, which means no visitors are allowed in, residents are not allowed to leave and only staff and essential services workers – those in the medical field ­­– are permitted entry.

“We screen staff and essential services as they come in the door,” she said. “We do temperature checks and ask screening questions.”

On top of those measures, Pacheco said, staff is reminding residents to practice physical distancing.

“We are making sure people are staying six feet apart, and we’ve reduced the number [of people] in our activities to no more than five,” she said. “Once the order of not being able to gather in groups of more than 50 people came in, we changed our meal times to having two seatings instead of one.”

Though the province has since limited gatherings 15 people, Pacheco said that mandate is for the public.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the elderly is the most at-risk demographic and can fall severely ill if COVID-19 is contracted. While the virus’ fatality rate has been low for younger people and those who have no pre-existing conditions, the death rate in China for those aged 80 and older was as high as 22 per cent, according to WHO. Numbers have varied from country to country, but the elderly remains the most vulnerable group.

As of 5 p.m. March 31, at least four of Alberta's nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths were seniors. 

The McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Home in Calgary, where the latest death originated from, is experiencing an outbreak of the virus. According to Alberta's chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, 41 residents and five staff members were considered probable or confirmed cases, as of March 31. She said the outbreak protocol wasn’t immediately implemented at the facility, resulting in a "significant amount of exposure."

Hinshaw added Alberta Health is tracking additional outbreaks at Calgary's Carewest Glenmore Park Centre and Shepherd’s Care Kensington in Edmonton Zone.

Of the 49 Albertans hospitalized as a result of the virus as of March 31, according to data from the province and obtained by the CBC, 19 – 39 per cent – were aged 65 and older.

While the pandemic has some residents at the Hamlets at Cedarwood Station feeling anxious, Pacheco said most are “coping pretty well” with the new safety protocols.

“They’re a little uneasy, but we’re doing the best we can, and most of them appreciate the measures we’ve put into place, because they know we’re doing it for their safety,” she said. “They’re probably getting a little tired of us telling them to wash their hands, and I told them they would, but we’ll still keep doing it.”

To help combat loneliness and social isolation, Pacheco added, many residents are keeping in touch with loved ones by chatting online, using software like Skype and Google Hangouts.

“We are starting to help them out with that, if they don’t already have a cell phone or tablet,” she said. “We’ve got that and can help them so they can connect with their families.”

Pacheco said keeping residents safe is of utmost importance.

“That’s our number-one concern,” she said. “I don’t even want one person to get it, so it’s just really important [to do these things]. I have meetings with my team, and their anxiety is also a little high, but it’s probably safer here than at a grocery store.

“As long as we make smart choices, keep that six-foot distance and not touch our faces, if we can stay smart like that, that’s the best thing we can do to keep our residents safe.”

Other senior residences in Airdrie include Bethany Airdrie, Luxstone Manor, Arbor Manor and Diamond Jubilee Manor and Suites.

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Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19