Although the provincial government has relaxed visiting restrictions at care homes, some facilities are still determining how to host visits safely.
Direct Action in Support of Community Homes Inc., a non-profit organization that cares for intellectually and developmentally disabled people, was forced to quickly adapt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March.
Karen Fonseth, CEO of DASCH, said Sunday's eased restrictions are another reminder the organization must stay flexible in its approach to serve more than 250 individuals at 59 locations across the city.
Under the new guidelines, indoor visits are permitted at DASCH, but residents are limited to seeing one family member at a time. As for outdoor visits, residents are allowed to see a maximum of two visitors at a time.
With several residents living in each DASCH home, Fonseth says the real task is co-ordinating visits.
"There are many hours in a day, so it doesn’t have to just be one family that visits. We just have to structure it around who is in the home, when, can you social distance and can you arrange to have another family member come in," said Fonseth.
"What we’ll see over the course of the next week is what works for one family might not work for another family. That’s where DASCH really prides itself, in specialized care and a specialized focus on the individual."
John Lehr’s adult daughter Karen has lived at a DASCH home since 2009. Lehr said while the virus has posed its challenges, he has been able to stay in touch with his daughter through FaceTime.
"I’ve never previously been much of a fan of FaceTime... but it was fantastic because it really ameliorated the effect of not actually seeing Karen in the flesh. We could see her on FaceTime and with some frequency, and we knew exactly how she was feeling and what was going on," said Lehr.
Despite the restrictions, Lehr said his daughter has been quite content with her own company at her DASCH residence.
He was eager to visit her in person on Father’s Day.
"Probably will stop and get a hot chocolate for Karen and a coffee for me and sit outside on the deck there and have a chat...no hugging or anything like that because both my wife and I are classified in the vulnerable population given our age, and so I have no desire to expose myself or Karen to any kind of risk," said Lehr.
In February, DASCH assembled a task force to stay on top of health and safety priorities in its group homes. To date, Fonseth said no one living in a DASCH home has tested positive for COVID-19.
Fonseth said the organization aims to be thoughtful in how it adjusts to new pandemic-related policies as they arise.
"We will be very cautious in rolling these things out and testing and trying, and talking to the individuals and families and going back to the drawing board. As we know, there will be more eased restrictions coming out shortly if this goes well," said Fonseth.
"It’s our intention to keep family members, loved ones, that are in our care and our staff safe and also reunite families, which is one of the more joyous things we are getting to do these days."