‘Pre-pandemic mode’: How Canadian long-term care homes are preparing for coronavirus

In the wake of several coronavirus deaths at a seniors home near Seattle, Wash., long-term care facilities across Canada are redoubling efforts to prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak and protect vulnerable residents.

Revera, a chain of long-term care homes, said its facilities are making sure they have enough medical supplies, food and staffing should the outbreak hit any of its 76 locations across the country.

“We’re moving into a pre-pandemic planning mode so that we can ensure that we have all the things that we need,” said Dr. Rhonda Collins, chief medical officer at Revera. “We are always in a state of preparedness as this is outbreak season. Influenza is always a big deal this time of year.”

Collins said long-term care homes have created additional screenings at entrances to ask visitors if they’re experiencing symptoms — like shortness of breath or fever — and if they have travelled to any countries currently experiencing outbreaks, like China, Iran or Italy.

Adequate staffing in the event of an outbreak is extremely important for long-term care facilities as residents with cognitive impairment will need extra care if they have to quarantined, Collins said.

“When they’re isolated, then they run the risk of developing a delirium, or having further decline both cognitively and functionally,” she said. “It’s not just about bringing in more staff. It’s about mobilizing the staff we have to areas where we need them.”

Collins said there are three main things older people can do to protect themselves: get vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia; wash hands constantly; and practise good coughing and sneezing etiquette.

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