I work as a recreation aide in long-term care in Athabasca and I have done this work with love for six years.
For those who have not experienced having a loved one in long-term care and have only heard news reports of abuse and mistreatment in care facilities and to family and friends of current residents, let me tell you what is happening in our facility.
On March 14, I arrived at the staff entrance to a sign indicating the entrance is closed and all staff must use the main entrance to be screened before entering the facility. This past month, the screening has increased dramatically.
Social distancing is in place at the entrance, with only one person allowed to enter the facility at a time and they must sign a declaration indicating they are symptom-free before being admitted into the building.
Our temperature is taken at the beginning of our shift and again before we go home. Masks are worn at all times by all staff no matter their role. Wearing a mask all day is a challenge, but done willingly to keep the folks in our care safe. Staff members with any signs of illness are required to remain at home and self-isolate for 14 days.
Normally, our dining room is the social centre of the facility. It is here residents spend time eating together, entertaining visitors and is the location of large group activities like games, entertainment and parties. Tables are now moved apart with only two people per table to allow as much social distancing as able.
All group activities have been suspended and no visitors are allowed in the facility.
To combat the feelings of isolation, more shifts have been added, including an extra evening recreation shift to allow for more interaction with each resident. Our residents are also moving into the age of technology; connecting with their loved ones via video calls.
My co-workers and I are doing our best to come up with individual activities to keep everyone engaged and enjoy their days being cooped up. Spring and access to the back yard can’t come soon enough.
I am very proud of my co-workers and the work being done with great love. Staff are working many extra shifts, managing to home–school children, worrying about our own families, finding time to fix a meal, do laundry; dusting and vacuuming will wait until the crisis is over. As grateful as I am for having a job when so many find themselves at home and out of work, I must admit, there are days when I am envious of the gift of time to wash walls or clean out a closet.
I pray for each of our residents, that they will remain safe and healthy until they can be reunited with their loved ones and may God keep all workers in care facilities strong and healthy.
If you want to help, keep us in your prayers and when this time of isolation has passed, come visit. Share the gift of time with these beautiful people.
Vaune McKee, Athabasca