A woman taps on Merr Olsen’s window at Mt. Cartier Court, a long-term care facility in Revelstoke. She’s brought packing tape, whiteboard markers and a pack of cards. Olsen recognizes his guest and smiles.
He’s expecting her.
Although long term care homes are not accepting visitors due to the COVID-19 crisis, it hasn’t stopped volunteers from playing tic-tac-toe on residents’ windows to keep them company.
“There are no cons to this. It’s positive right from the start,” said Theresa Hamilton with Revelstoke Hospice Society.
“Continuing social interactions are important.”
|Tic-tac-toe. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
There have been multiple outbreaks of the disease in care homes throughout Canada, including the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver where 11 residents have died, 40 more have the virus and 21 staff are ill.
In B.C., 19 long term care homes are dealing with outbreaks. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 as-of-April 6 in the U.S., are above the age of 55.
As-of-April 3, Interior Health said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of the care homes in Revelstoke.
Hamilton met Olsen years prior when she worked at the local pharmacy. She remembers one time when the power went out and they had to empty the store, staff found Olsen left behind. He had fallen asleep in a chair.
The two have been friends ever since.
|Outside a window at Mt. Cartier Court. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
While Olsen is living at Mt. Cartier Court, Hamilton makes sure she visits. Sometimes they just chat through the window, often reverting to miming as the thick glass muffles chatter. Other times Hamilton has built a snowman outside his window with the fresh snow.
Today, the two are playing hangman, the guessing game where one player thinks of a word and the other tries to guess it by suggesting letters,
“It’s nice you come see me,” said Olsen after guessing Hamilton’s word (Summer) correctly. This morning, his window is open a crack, letting in chirps of returning robins.
The two chat about the day, such as Olsen’s favourite movie (Bridge over the River Kwai) and what he had for breakfast (eggs).
Although there’s a pandemic, Hamilton said coming to chat with Olsen keeps a sense of normality through the crisis.
“It’s routine,” she said.
The hospice is looking for more volunteers to engage with seniors in whatever form that might be. Whether it’s games on windows or a phone chat.
Hamilton said she hopes people will come and make new friends, creating a bond that will last longer than the pandemic.
“Hopefully this will go beyond COVID-19.”
|Mt. Cartier Court. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Even without the virus, Hamilton said seniors are at a high risk of social isolation and depression. According to a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, nearly half of seniors in residential care facilities across the country have symptoms of depression.
“It’s important that Revelstoke pays attention to this,” Hamilton said.
She continues visiting a senior even for an hour once a week, can vastly improve their life.
“Nobody deserves to be alone.”
Those interested in volunteering can contact the hospice society at firstname.lastname@example.org.