Marjorie Jarret (left) and Rosemarie Buchanan are board members with Abbeyfield. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Marjorie Jarret (left) and Rosemarie Buchanan are board members with Abbeyfield. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

VALLEY SENIORS: How Port Alberni seniors have been coping with COVID-19

Abbeyfield Board of Directors and staff ensure there’s always something for seniors to do



One of the groups highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the seniors population.

Health authorities and government agencies have recommended measures to prevent the spread of the disease by keeping people in their homes and avoiding large gatherings. Although these measures have been proven to save lives, seniors particularly have been affected by isolation and loneliness, deprived from their social interaction with the larger community.

Seniors homes residents, such as Abbeyfielders, have adapted to the new environment by being cautious and careful. The staff certainly have played a decisive role in balancing the health safety issues the pandemic brings while trying to maintain active social conditions for the senior population of the home.

Gayla Gallanar and Tracy Adams are the two managers who are actively involved in the day-to-day operation of this home, mainly by providing in-house programs of activities to 21 permannent residents.

“It was tough to deal with the pandemic,” said Gallanar. “For us, as well as for the rest of the people living and working here, it was all new. So, under the circumtances, we had to improvise.”

“Obviously, our primary concern was and has always been the safety of our residents and their wellbeing,” added Adams.

Without volunteers and visitors, several regular programs such as music sessions, crafts and other forms of entertainment, plus the regular activities and calendar event celebrations, have decreased substantially in the home. These factors have had an impact on the social milieu of the seniors who rely on house activities and outside support for social engagement.The concern was that the lack of normal regular recreational and social endevours, along with the lack of regular contact with families and friends, could bring isolation and loneliness.

Fortunately, the staff found ways to create meaningful activities by encouraging the seniors to take part in various programs in their home.

“Recently, several social gatherings have been held outdoors, weather permitting,” Adams said.

“And we have managed to go on bus trips around town as well!” added Gallanar.

Ann Tatoosh, a fourth-year resident, says: “It has been over a year that COVID-19 affected our lives. Each of us has been impacted by the pandemic. Throughout the summer months we were able to visit outside with family and friends. We wore masks and practiced safe distancing.”

She also said that during the winter the residents did more activities together, all organized by the staff who planned afternoon and evening special events.

“We had pub evenings, bingo, virtual concerts and movie nights,” Tatoosh said. “I noticed more residents participating.”

The Abbeyfield Board of Directors ensured that the staff had full access to the most recent and complete information on COVID-19, as well as the latest instructions from Dr. Bonny Henry and Island Health.

“It was very important from the beginning that all residents and staff were involved in making decisions, rather than imposing rules,” said Marjorie Jarret, member of the Human Resources Committee.

Another member of the committee, Rosemarie Buchanan, added, “Necessary restrictions regarding who would be allowed to enter the building could well have resulted in feelings of loneliness and depression amongst the residents.”

In their role as a leading entity, the board considered it important to ensure that the residents and staff were given the freedom to adjust the daily schedules, so there was always something interesting happening. This helped to keep everyone feeling calm and contented.

On a positive note, Tatoosh said, “By taking part together at events in the home, I feel we were able to get to know one another better and bond. This shared experience helped us get through a difficult and challenging year.”

CoronavirusPort AlberniSeniors