The devastation caused by COVID-19 in seniors’ homes and long-term care or retirement homes across Ontario is emerging as a primary crisis of the pandemic.
On April 14, federal health authorities confirmed that nearly half of Canada’s 735 COVID-19 deaths are linked to long-term care homes, and the number of deaths is expected to rise.
“We’re dealing with a wildfire at our long-term care homes,” said Premier Doug Ford.
As of April 21, summary of cases of COVID-19 showed that 20.9 per cent of cases were individuals in the demographic of 80 years of age and older. Patients in the age group of 60 to 79 years of age make up 22.9 per cent of the confirmed cases in Ontario.
In a Public Health study of confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks reported in long-term care homes or retirement homes, the total number of cases reported as part of the 121 confirmed outbreaks hit 2,069 as of April 21. Of these outbreaks, 2,069 cases have been reported at long-term care homes and a total of 274 deaths related to COVID-19.
Of those cases, 1,394 were reported among residents and 671 among staff at long-term care or retirement homes.
The province promises more funding, testing and equipment to assist staff looking after seniors.
Based on epidemiology studies for the province of Ontario, 417 individuals or 17 per cent of reported deaths are in ages 80 years of age and over. Deaths reported in ages 60 to 79 years of age make up 6.4 per cent of the province’s COVID-19 related deaths as of April 21.
In other provinces in Canada, similar trends have been recorded. In Quebec, 70 per cent of COVID-19 deaths are in long-term care or seniors’ residences.
Ontario reports a total of 11,735 cases in the province.
Huron Perth Public Health’s records reveal that a total of 36 cases in the region have been confirmed as of April 21.
Long-term senior homes such as Goderich Place, Maitland Manor and Harbour Hill have no confirmed cases as of April 22. Residents and staff would like to keep it that way.
Goderich Place’s response to COVID-19 was early and rigorous, and staff members believe this is part of the reason the residence remains virus free.
According to Goderich Place, residents have all responded differently to measures taken during the pandemic. Most understand the seriousness of the crisis and understand that adhering to the isolation measures is essential for their protection.
Earlier in March, Goderich Place began restricting access and implementing measures. As the risk of contracting COVID-19 increased across the province, Goderich Place increased their measures, in accordance with direction from the Ministry of Health.
The long-term care residence perform temperature checks twice a day for all employees and residents, all group activities have been cancelled, visitor access to the building is limited and residents remain isolated in their suites. Staff members bring activities such as hallway bingo, books, games and video calls to their door to help them cope with isolation.
Willing to speak on the experience at Goderich Place, a few residents spoke highly on the quick-action of staff and management to not only keep them safe, but to help cope with isolation:
“In this time of crisis I reflect on other times of tragedy – polio epidemic, WWII, SARS. Many rules have been set, which we do not particularly like, but management is doing all this for our own good. The staff goes beyond the call of duty.”
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for proactive action at getting safety directives out so early. Now that we are isolated to our units, I feel thankful being a resident in Goderich Place at this difficult time.”
“Goderich Place reacted very quickly to the threat of COVID-19 by isolating us as much as possible and still providing everything needed for a healthy and enjoyable life. I cannot thank them enough for being with us during these difficult times.”
“How does this vibrant retirement community survive and thrive in isolation during a pandemic? Just like we have survived into our senior years. We accept what we cannot change, and we get creative with what we can.”
“For seniors who have lived through war, recessions, 9/11 and many unprecedented issues, this time of isolation in Goderich Place has given us a greater time of solitude. We are thinking and praying for our loved ones and especially the many thousands of COVID-19 victims. What we are learning are those essential things we lose sight of when we get busy – a smile can light up a room, even from a distance, it can help others.”
“The pandemic already tells us that mother earth is suffering and we need to be a part of what the post-pandemic world will become. We know it belongs to our children and our children’s children, but together we can create a better world.”
Josef Ger, CEO of Retirement Life Group of Companies, owner of Goderich Place, explains that restrictions and isolation measures have been difficult on everyone, and staff members remain committed to keeping the residents safe.
“It’s been amazing to watch people come together and go above and beyond to support one another. Everyone is really coming together to help manage the increased responsibilities,” added Ger.
Goderich Place will continue to follow guidelines from health officials, while offering resources for those residents and staff who are experiencing anxiety.
-Goderich Signal Star | Kathleen Smith