Why physical distancing doesn't mean social isolation in retirement communities

Canadians have quickly become familiar with “physical distancing” as we continue to adjust to the new normal of COVID-19 prevention and control.

Chartwell has introduced many important protocols to help keep residents, staff and visitors safe from COVID-19. Following the latest recommendations by public health and government authorities, this includes undertaking several measures that help residents practice physical distancing.

With numerous studies showing how important regular and meaningful contact with friends and family is for seniors, some may assume that social distancing will equate to social isolation for individuals living in retirement residences. Here’s how Chartwell is tackling COVID-19 and keeping residents social and engaged:

Continuation of care and support

The caring and friendly staff who support older adults in Chartwell residences are just as dedicated—if not more so—to their health and well-being during this unprecedented time.

Chartwell staff are trained in infection control procedures and continue to provide the level of support residents need to feel comfortable and well cared for, including providing for their personal care needs, meals, suite disinfection and general companionship and reassurance. Even if a residence has to go into quarantine in future, staff will always be there to provide the warmth and compassion of human connection, thanks to personal protective equipment that allows them to continue to safely provide for the physical and emotional needs of residents.

What’s wonderful is Chartwell residents know the staff who support them on a daily basis, so if they need someone to talk to or listen to their concerns, they can turn to someone they trust.

Providing safe opportunities for fun

To align with physical distancing recommendations, Chartwell is looking at how formal group activities will look in future when they resume and is putting more emphasis on in-suite activities to keep residents safe while also keeping them engaged and feeling a part of the community.

Lifestyle staff have also been coming up with many creative ways of keeping residents entertained. For example, distributing brain puzzles, word searches and riddles and asking the first resident to solve them to call down to the reception desk to claim a prize. Mobile happy hours, snack carts delivering residents’ favourite treats, and even entertainers performing on front lawns so residents can listen from their balconies are some of the simple, yet fun activities that continue to build on the solidarity in our residences and keep everyone feeling connected and optimistic.

Keeping residents—and their families—connected

Depending on the province, many residents are unable to leave the residence or accept visits with family and friends at this time. As we wait for these restrictions to be eased, Chartwell lifestyle staff are offering residents instruction on how to video call from a personal device or residence computer, or helping to set up these calls with family. The goal is to give residents the opportunity and control to reach out to family and friends as frequently as they wish from the comfort and safety of the residence.

Staff are also encouraging family to keep in touch with residents and helping them with arrangements concerning dropping off care packages to their loved ones. Books, letters and pictures from grandchildren, photos, puzzles, flowers, chocolates and home-made treats are all welcome ways to cheer up residents, remind them how much family cares and keep them optimistic that life will return back to normal soon.

While residents may be apart from family and friends right now, they are certainly never alone while living in a Chartwell residence. Staff and fellow residents are always there to support one another and help each other persevere through challenging times with optimism and positivity.