Nanaimo care home hits positive milestone in pandemic recovery

With the honk of the horn from their driver, seniors who are living in a long-term care home in Nanaimo are getting a renewed sense of freedom.

They were on their way to their first outing from the building in over a year and a half as pandemic restrictions ease and, more importantly for the seniors, people become vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I love it,” says Dufferin Place resident Irene Merrifield. “I love the bus.”

Those aboard didn’t know where they were headed – and that’s part of the thrill.

“It’s always an adventure,” says Shirley Foucher, who has been living at Dufferin Place for three years.

The home’s activity supervisor says restoring pre-pandemic activities will be gradual. Over the last month, Island Health has been resuming bus trips across care facility sites, but residents aren’t yet allowed to disembark.

Before the pandemic, the seniors would be taken to lunch at a restaurant once a week or driven to a park to explore.

“I’ve seen lots of changes over the years, but this has been the toughest,” says Gwen Cooke on the stern rules those living in long-term care faced since March 2020.

Foucher says it’s been an isolating year. “You feel cooped up.”

She has five sons. She got to see her youngest son recently and talks to the others on the phone, which is a new norm for many at the site.

“I had one full-time staff working on video chats with family and phone calls,” says Cooke. “That has slowed down a little bit now because some family can come [back] in.”

It’s a testament to those gradual changes. Up next, a musician will return to Dufferin Place Thursday.