Supporting the Front Line in Seniors Care

By Stephanie Jarvis, NP-Adult, BScN, MN, GNC (C)

The week’s headlines have been staggering — 600 long-term care and retirement homes across Canada are now fighting COVID-19 outbreaks among residents and staff, with 75 deaths at the latest count. In Ontario, 40 COVID-19 related deaths to-date were residents of the province’s long-term care and retirement homes. Since the outbreak first began to spread in China, we’ve all known that the novel coronavirus was hitting seniors harder than any other population. We knew that our long-term care and retirement homes would be vulnerable.

But it doesn’t make the news any easier to digest.

This disease touches a lot of people. These are our parents, our grandparents, sisters, brothers, spouses and friends at risk. It’s easy to feel helpless. Having worked in seniors care as a personal support worker, nurse and nurse practitioner over the last 18 years, I can, perhaps, begin to understand the fear and exhaustion that frontline workers must be feeling right now. Long hours, difficult conditions and a need for more resources are the norm at the best of times. Pandemic conditions bring those needs into stark relief.

There is no single solution. But there are best practices that are emerging. We’ve been working with our partners in long-term care to share these best practices for years. Our clinical team is now updating that content regularly as new COVID-19 findings emerge.

For example, as a nurse or care provider in the home, I can access a clinical tool that delivers clear guidance on isolation precautions and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) related to COVID-19. It’s critical that staff know what they need and when to wear it. The evidence-based recommendations also support and inform the best, safest care for residents with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection. These tools help facilitate early recognition and monitoring of clinical signs and symptoms, and ensure that key information is documented to support a smooth transition at the end of a shift.

We are now delivering our COVID-19 content free of cost to Ontario long-term care homes in our network that were already using our clinical tools. And we’ll continue to look at how we can expand that access, to make sure that the frontline workers we support everyday are getting this critical information when they need it the most. It’s the least we can do.

We’re also offering our virtual care platform so that residents can have virtual visits with their doctors and other care providers, reducing the need for in-person visits. That helps lower the risk of exposure for everyone. 

Long-term care and retirement homes have a critical role to play in protecting their communities. Managing care of residents and staff with mild symptoms and, most importantly, containing the spread is crucial right now.

We’ve always believed that technology can change healthcare and seniors care in Canada for the better — and we’re putting that to the test right now.