Family Behaviours During a Lock-Down at a Seniors Home

Family Behaviours During a Lock-Down at a Seniors Home

by Jamey MacDonald

Beulah Garden Homes Society in Vancouver is home for 350 seniors in five separate residences.  Of that number, 89 are identified as being part of the “assisted living” community while the others are “independent living”.  “Assisted living” designation means that one’s health and well being are more fragile and require a greater level of care in order to live well.

During this Covid 19 pandemic, we have discouraged visitors to all our residences but we have “locked down” the Cedars, our assisted living building.  The residents are vulnerable and we can’t risk them being inadvertently infected by well intentioned family and friends.  It’s not been easy for anyone, and it’s provoked some interesting reactions.  We are closely following the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry, and have been careful to err on the side of caution rather than riskfulness.

We can’t replace a family, but we can assist them as they honour their elders.

In the case of the Cedars residents and their family, a lock down saw at least 4 different responses from family:

  1. For some, the lockdown didn’t change a thing.  Sad as it is, some of our residents don’t get visits from family or friends at all, and the lockdown obviously didn’t change that. 
  2. For some family members, hearing about a “lock down” brought a sigh of relief.  They were worried and interpreted the action as strong caregiving.  Knowing their mom or dad (gramma or granpa) was safe was a comfort.  They respected protocol and stayed away using telephone, social media, and virtual communications to stay in touch. 
  3. For others, it actually energized their focus as they realized that desperate times fires up creative juices.  So, they came by and visited “through the window” or “over the balcony”.  Virtual communication wasn’t enough, they wanted face to face time, real connections. 
  4. For a small number of family members, the lockdown provoked anger and reactivity.  They found the restriction to be too restrictive and demanded their rights to see their loved one.  It became difficult at times as we tried to balance the desires of an individual with the safety needs of the whole building.  I can understand their concern and salute their passion.  But, nonetheless, it was an awkward time trying to do good caregiving.

Covid 19 is not over yet.  We continue to practice careful behaviours on all our campus.  As restrictions are slowly being lifted, we are slowly adapting to new realities.  Yesterday I stopped by the Cedars and was pleased to see a young woman visiting an older gentleman outside on the patio.  He was seated in a chair and she was about 10 steps away talking with him.  She still can’t go inside, but he can go out to her and on sunny days, it’s a great relief to residents to “get outside in the fresh air”.  As is my custom I thanked her for showing love and care to her grandpa.  She responded “no, thank you for taking care of my grandpa when we can’t”.  I think that’s a fair arrangement.  It’s an honour to care for those that need care.  We can’t replace a family, but we can assist them as they honour their elders.

About the author

Jamey is the CEO of Beulah Garden Homes. He has served as the senior leader at Beulah since May 2018. Prior to that he spent 12 years as the national leader of the Baptist General Conference of Canada. Prior to that, he was a pastor in Winnipeg, and North Vancouver. And prior to that, he was growing up in Northern Ontario. He is married to Barb and together they have 3 grown daughters and one very special grandson.  They live in Burnaby and attend First Baptist Church, Vancouver.
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