Canterbury Court in Vernon had a mandatory two-week lockdown amid COVID-19 beginning March 20, 2020, and general manager Delene Demeter decided to stay at the five-star independent assisted living facility to ensure the safety and well being of its residents. (Canterbury Court)

Vernon seniors’ home manager called work home in COVID-19 lockdown

Canterbury Court GM opted to stay overnight for 3 weeks to ensure safety, health of residents

The general manager of a seniors’ home in Vernon has finally had the opportunity to sleep in her own bed after calling her workplace home for nearly three weeks.

Delene Demeter, general manager of Canterbury Court in Vernon, said spending her nights at the retirement home was an experience, but she’s glad she did it.

The facility, which around 132 people call home, went under a two-week lockdown March 20, and Demeter determined it was easier for her to ride out the quarantine alongside the residents to ensure things went smoothly as the staff and seniors adapted quickly to several changes due to COVID-19.

She said she finally went home just before Easter long weekend, April 10.

The Canterbury Court staff implemented a plethora of precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of staff and residents, Demeter said.

Demeter said all staff were required to leave one outfit at work and upon arrival, shoes were sprayed, hands were sanitized before staff would change into their work clothes in the clean room. No street clothes were to be worn outside the clean room.

She said that 15-minute changeover was avoided as she opted to sleep at the facility.

“I don’t live that far away,” she said, noting it was good to be around for residents, especially those who suffer with severe dementia.

“I was here to keep the peace and help with situations,” she said.

As the pandemic continued, Demeter said she saw her staff numbers dwindle to around 50 per cent.

“Seniors homes are notoriously at-risk with these types of viruses,” she said. “They (the staff) were nervous and left on their own.”

“The staff I do have,” she said, “are absolutely dedicated, super wonderful people.”

While on a mandatory facility-wide lockdown, the staff did their best to keep the residents entertained. Games of hallway Bingo, musical Bingo and a telephone game called Spymaster were played — residents are given a telephone number and code words, and are tasked with outing the spy.

“We did that several times,” Demeter said. “It ended up laughable.”

Puzzles, brain teasers and books were also delivered to each suite.

Room service was in place for all residents, while self-isolating in their rooms. Three meals and tea and coffee time in the afternoon were provided.

“It was a major undertaking,” Demeter said. “And we all lived through it.”

Now, most of Canterbury’s residents are out of their rooms and Demeter said everyone was very excited about it.

“They’ve been out since Saturday (April 11) and now we’re trying to do social distancing.”

This can be difficult at times, she said, as some residents may forget or they don’t understand why social distancing is important.

The dining hall and lounge have been transformed by pushed-together tables and altered seating arrangements to ensure diners are six feet apart, and Canterbury’s normal five dining times have been cut to two as more space was made available for each seating.

Approximately 13 residents are still utilizing room service for meals, Demeter said April 14. Many of whom are continuing to self-isolate, voluntarily or due to a recent trip to hospital.

Things are beginning to look more normal now that activities are starting up again, Demeter said, but social distancing is maintained as staff host more rounds of each activity to allow everyone a chance to participate.

All mail, and fabric robes used by Interior Health Care Aides are disinfected over night under a UVC light — or an Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation — before it can be opened or used in the facility. Other items coming in are disinfected with Lysol spray.

Families wishing to send items are urged not to as staff wouldn’t be able to handle the increased sanitization processes on the mailed items.

“We’re not allowing anyone to buy groceries as that would be challenging to disinfect,” Demeter said, adding residents can purchase staple pantry items from the on-site store. “With three meals and coffee time, there’s no need to buy anything. But if they want to, we have it in our shop.”

Demeter said despite the rapidly changing information around the novel coronavirus and increased protocols and safety measures, things have started to smooth out as residents adapt to a new schedule and way of life.

“There has been some good things and some not so good things, but it’s working out well,” she said.

There has been no COVID-19 cases at Canterbury Court, but the staff and residents will continue to practice social distancing among other safety measures to ensure the continued safety and well-being of everyone.

READ MORE: COVID-19: City of Vernon Ambassadors speak to hundreds over Easter weekend

READ MORE: ‘We see your grief’: B.C.’s total test positive cases top 1,500 as deaths rise to 72


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