Alton Rix, 78, a resident at Extendicare Michener Hill long-term care and supportive living centre in Red Deer, gets a visit from his wife Leona every day. With the ongoing restrictions at long-term care facilities, the woman visits her husband through the window. Contributed photo

Love in the time of coronavirus: Red Deer seniors visit their families through glass windows

Separated by the pandemic restrictions, but connected by the glass window – that’s what love during the coronavirus outbreak looks like for some.

Seniors in Red Deer care facilities are keeping safe and healthy, and having window visits with their families. And in one case, visits with horses.

Alton Rix, a resident at Extendicare Michener Hill long-term care and supportive living centre, gets a visit from his wife Leona every day.

Melissa D’Souza, a recreation therapist at the facility, said Leona used to take him out on walks when she came, or kept him company during meal times.

But with COVID-19, that’s no longer possible.

Since the stringent measures came into effect, his wife visits him through the window every day. The staff also arrange for video chats, as they do for most residents.

“He does recognize her voice. It’s very sweet. He will move his shoulder or his arm anytime she does speak,” said D’Souza of the 78-year-old resident.

His wife also got a new smartphone when the COVID-19 outbreak hit, so she was able to connect with him, said Destiny Mand, a quality of life aide.

The staff arranges for phone and video chats for families and takes messages for their residents.

“It’s also really sweet to hear those messages and to pass them on, because they’re always to tell them, ‘I love them,’” said D’Souza.

“It’s always to let them know, “I love them and I’ll be talking soon,’” said Mand, adding families are grateful their loved ones are well.

“That’s what families want to hear: that they’re safe and healthy,” said Mand.

Frances Sawchuck, who was born on April 9, 1918, recently turned 102 at Extendicare. She was able to connect with her family through the window, and the staff kept the phone line open so she could hear them.

“Her daughter and her son-in-law (came to visit) and brought their grandchildren along, and they brought a cake, and so they held the cake on the outside (of the window) and sang to her and she could hear them through the phone,” said Mand.

The resident also enjoyed a second cake with her fellow residents in the facility later.

During the pandemic, the staff also arranged for two horses to walk around the buildings, while maintaining social distancing measures, to lift residents’ spirits.

“The residents were so excited to see the horses, and some spent time reminiscing of days when they travelled on horseback to school,” said D’Souza.

Tracy Elliott, general manager at Points West Living in Red Deer, said window, phone and video visits are popular.

“We have main ground floor windows that crank open, and family members can sit outside the window and residents can talk to them in real time, face to face (while maintaining social distance),” said Elliott.

She said because of their past experiences, such as living through influenza outbreaks, and in rare cases, the Spanish flu, residents are understanding of the stringent measures in place.

“They are more understanding than we are about this situation, but that doesn’t mean they’re not missing their creature comforts, like little things like seeing their loved ones, or getting their hair done, or moving around the building like they did before.”

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Marlow Thomas, at Extendicare Michener Hill long-term care and supportive living centre in Red Deer, recently spent time with a horse through the window. Contributed photo

Frances Sawchuck, who was born on April 9, 1918, recently turned 102 at Extendicare Michener Hill long-term care and supportive living centre in Red Deer. She celebrated her birthday with her family through the window. Contributed photo

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