OHSWEKEN — According to the Ontario Long Term Care Association, there are roughly 630 long-term care homes in the province, with over 70,000 residents. While many of these facilities have struggled with outbreaks, the Iroquois Lodge has managed to stay COVID free during the pandemic. For the past 17 weeks, Iroquois Lodge residents and staff
OHSWEKEN — According to the Ontario Long Term Care Association, there are roughly 630 long-term care homes in the province, with over 70,000 residents. While many of these facilities have struggled with outbreaks, the Iroquois Lodge has managed to stay COVID free during the pandemic.
For the past 17 weeks, Iroquois Lodge residents and staff have been vigilant in keeping the virus out of the long-term care home.
Administrator at the Lodge, Katie Gasparelli, provided some insight as to what steps staff have been taking to keep themselves and residents as safe as possible.
In an email, Gasparelli states, “We have followed all the instructions provided by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long Term Care including regular testing of staff, limiting our staff to only working in one facility, limiting visitors to those identified as essential and universal masking for staff. In collaboration with Six Nations Public Health we implemented many of these actions even before they were directed by the Ministry. We provided additional training about infection control procedures and observed the staff in action to ensure they knew how to do things safely.”
Gasparelli said, “We have also spent time preparing for the possibility of a staff or a resident testing positive. We had two sessions with staff to discuss how we might handle the worst case scenario. Preparing for COVID helped to identify issues ahead of time and allowed us to ensure we have the supplies, equipment and procedures necessary to control an outbreak. We stayed connected with our local Public Health Unit and other regional networks including other Long Term Care facilities and Brantford Community Healthcare System. Sharing ideas and resources with a larger group of people helped everyone to learn from one another as we moved through the initial stages of the pandemic.”
Asked how the residents have been coping during the pandemic, Gasparelli said, “The residents have been very understanding throughout the pandemic. They have had to stay at the facility while watching staff come and go. If a resident is admitted to hospital, they are required to be in isolation for two weeks upon their return. This can be frustrating because it limits their social Gasparelli goes on to describe what, if anything, has changed in the daily lives of the residents, “The daily routines have stayed the same for the most part. The biggest change is that they can’t leave the property. Some of our residents would normally go out and socialize offsite during the day or participate in other community programming and events. Visitors and external providers like hairdressers have not been allowed into the building so this definitely changes the amount of socialization and connection to family, friends and the community.”
In regards to plans on moving forward as the province begins to lift restrictions, “Iroquois Lodge will continue to follow the Directives from the Ministry and consult with Six Nations Public Health before making any changes to our current restrictions. We will ensure we take the time to assess the risk to the residents before taking any action.”
Residents can also have visitors again, “We have recently started to offer outdoor visits. The Ministry of Long-Term Care allowed facilities to create an outdoor space where one family member or friend can visit with a resident. In order to visit, you must have a negative COVID test result within the previous two weeks, wear a mask and stay six feet from the resident during the visit. Appointments are required for visits and the staff will provide the instructions to the visitor over the phone prior to the visit.”
Iroquois Lodge does have WiFi which is available for residents to use, to stay virtually connected with family and friends, however, Gasparelli states, “Virtual connection is not as meaningful to some of our residents due to dementia, limited eyesight or other issues. This has made it challenging to ensure all residents have equitable access to connect with their families. Some residents have their own devices and have been able to stay connected to family and friends while others have had to rely on the availability of staff to support the process. We have been fortunate to receive digital devices as donations from Best Buy, Pattern Energy and Behaviour Services Ontario. We will continue to use these to support ongoing virtual visits for residents.”
Editorial note: Nya:weh to Ms. Gasparelli, Iroquois Lodge staff and Six Nations Public Health for keeping our community treasures safe during this global pandemic. And to all the residents at the Lodge, the community continues to keep you in our thoughts and prayers