Workers in New Brunswick’s nursing homes have had to adjust to a constant state of change during the pandemic, with new precautions being considered as COVID-19 persists in the province.
Cara Babcock, fourth-year Bachelor of Nursing student at UNB, works as a personal support worker at Pine Grove Nursing Home in Fredericton. Within this position, she performs basic care for the elderly residents and has found herself having to adjust to the changing rules enforced at her facility.
“My daily tasks include helping the residents with activities of daily living such as morning and evening care, taking blood sugars, doing vital signs, and charting,” Babcock explained, adding that “the tasks I do for work haven’t changed since COVID; I still do the same things, but the rules have constantly been changing.”
Staff are required to wear a mask at all times, except when eating or drinking on their break, and their temperature is taken before entering the facility. They must monitor their email frequently to ensure that they are aware of any new rules as soon as they are announced.
Through Orange protocol, nursing homes in New Brunswick have placed heavy restrictions on those permitted in the facility due to the high-risk status of their residents. Virtual gatherings are permitted, as well as outdoor gatherings of up to ten people with social distancing guidelines being observed.
Facilities have prohibited all general visitors, allowing only essential volunteers, designated support persons, and visitors for those receiving palliative care allowed into the building.
Even gifts must meet certain guidelines to be able to enter the building, as they must be able to be washed and disinfected before coming into contact with residents. Items such as flowers must be left at a safe enough distance to be seen, but not touched or smelled, by residents.
Many residents have experienced long stretches without visitors due to the pandemic and struggle with feelings of loneliness as a result.
“It has been hard on a lot of the residents because none of them saw their families for a long period of time during the pandemic, which is really hard on their mental health,” Babcock said. “When we accept a new resident they remain in their rooms for 14 days to isolate for symptoms, which is also really hard on them.”
Babcock expresses the need for more workers, not only during the pandemic, but also when it ends. Workers are dedicated to providing the best possible care to their residents, and more workers would ensure that this is an attainable goal.
She praised Pine Grove for their success in adjusting to the new rules imposed by the pandemic, highlighting their stringent practices of handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing as reasons for their success.
“I think there have definitely been some challenges with all of the new rules in place, but overall the facility has done a fantastic job of handling the difficulties. There are precautions in place to ensure our safety,” she said. “I just hope that as a province we can follow the rules and regulations to keep our cases down to ensure the residents at Pine Grove can see their families.”