Judie Shape, right, who has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but isn’t showing symptoms, smiles as she visits through the window and on the phone with her daughter Lori Spencer, left, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits are not allowed at the nursing home, which is at the center of the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the United States. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Lessons from a pandemic: How to design a nursing home that’s safe and love-filled

A look at how one care home is battling the pandemic with the social needs of the elderly in their care

By Martha Perkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News

The images were heartbreaking — a senior citizen, alone in their nursing home bedroom while, on the other side of the window, a family member stands outside and tries to establish some kind of connection to ease the sense of isolation and foreboding.

Surely, people said, there has to be a better way to keep residents of care facilities safe while also allowing them to be with their families.

Baptist Housing is working on it. The coronavirus pandemic has unexpectedly provided new insights into how nursing homes should be designed to help control the spread of any type of illness. The timing is especially beneficial as Baptist Housing works on its plans for the first phase of the Inglewood Care Centre redevelopment.

This past February, BC Housing financed the sale of the aging facility and three adjacent lots to Baptist Housing, which owns and operates 21 care homes in British Columbia. With a large financial commitment from the province, as well as Vancouver Coastal Health, Baptist Housing came up with plan to subsidize the construction of a replacement care home by creating a community of housing on the site. The total of 699 proposed units also includes private-pay units, life leases and rental apartments for staff.

In mid-September, the District of West Vancouver allowed the project to move to the public consultation stage.

In advance of the first public open house on Oct. 6, the North Shore News talked with Howard Johnson, Baptist Housing CEO and president, and Marc Kinna, executive vice-president operations and chief operating officer. They walked through some of the ways they’re adapting traditional nursing home designs to ensure residents and staff can enjoy a better quality of life and work during a pandemic.

“COVID-19 has taught us about the risk of bringing a virus from the outside world into the residences of these seniors,” Kinna says. “We have to remember that they don’t life where we work we work in their home. This has really transformed our thinking around that.”

As well, the changes will keep residents healthier, pandemic or not. “Every single design element that will make the building better, and the experience better for residents, also applies to other forms of illness,” he says. “We’re hoping that the incidence of other communicable illnesses such as influenza, the Norwalk virus and the common cold will be lesser as well.”

Because many of these design changes can be incorporated into the original plans, they are optimistic they won’t add much to the overall cost of the construction.

Room, sweet room

The COVID-19 dilemma: in some facilities, many residents share a room. (In Ontario, it is not uncommon to have up to four residents in a room in B.C. it is more commonly two.) This made residents much more susceptible to transmission of the virus. As well, it was challenging to isolate residents who were ill.

The Inglewood solution: every resident will have their own room plus an ensuite bathroom with shower. This gives them privacy, dignity and, when needed, the opportunity to reduce transmission risk.

Let there be visitors

The COVID-19 dilemma: Family members were not allowed to visit. There was no physical contact with the outside world, leaving many residents feeling lonely and confused.

The Inglewood solution: there will be two elevators — one for visitors, one for staff. When you get off the visitor elevator, there will immediately be a multi-purpose room. In normal times, it will be a place where residents can gather amongst themselves or with visitors. In times of a pandemic or influenza outbreak, it will accommodate one-on-one family visits. Safety protocols can easily put in place — perhaps it will be a plexiglass shield or some other sort of barrier — and visitors will not have to go near residents’ rooms or staff areas.

“It would just seem seamless,” Kinna says.

Creating communities

The COVID-19 dilemma: it was hard to isolate residents and staff from each other, especially when there could be up to 60 people living on one floor.

The Inglewood solution: the seniors home will be designed as households, with 23 residents living in that community. This creates distance and separation between households, which is particularly important when it comes to food services and living spaces.

As part of these households, staff will have their own lunch rooms and team spaces. “They will be able to take their breaks withing their own area of work and not have to congregate in larger spaces,” says Johnson. As well, Kinna adds, “it allows team members to be closer to the residents and not have to leave the floor they’re working on.

Embrace technology

The COVID-19 dilemma: unable to have in-person visits, residents relied on phones or tablets to stay in touch with family. Often they needed staff to assist them.

The Inglewood solution: “We’re going to expand our use of technology quite a bit more in terms of how we ensure there’s enough resources and flexibility to support residents,” Johnson says. “Our building will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to allow for that, whether it’s Wi-fi or the wiring necessary to provide technology within the suite.”

Keep that air moving

The COVID-19 dilemma: at first it was believed that the virus spread primarily through physical contact. Now, much of the research indicates that it is also an airborne disease.

The Inglewood solution: “We need to keep the air moving in such a way that it’s not recirculating within the communities and potentially spreading anything that’s airborne,” Kinna says. Johnson adds, “Think about how often the air is exchanged. When you look at how we design buildings for seniors to live it, it’s similar in that you’re making sure the air in the building is new every six minutes or so.”

Each household of 23 suites will have its own air system, which will also help prevent the spread of airborne diseases from one floor to another.

CoronavirusHealthSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peggy Ardnt (left) and Ed Ardnt (right) present the symbolic first poppy to Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio. This presentation is traditional across Canada to share awareness of the poppy campaign leading up to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11. (Adam Louis/Observer)
Agassiz Legion presents first symbolic poppies

Local dignitaries accepted the poppies, continuing a long-standing tradition

Left to right: Sardis Kiwanis Club President Bruce Oakley with nominator Peter Somers, Sovereign’s Medal recipient Brian Cleaver, nominator Derek Fryer and nominator Peter Brown. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack’s Brian Cleaver wins Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

Cleaver is a long-time member of the Sardis Kiwanis Club and a strong advocate for Special Olympics

Former Chilliwack-Kent BC Liberal MLA Barry Penner, pictured here in 2016 when he was the outgoing chair of the ICBC board of directors, said the BC Liberals have a lot of work to recover from the Oct. 24, 2020 election defeat. (Black Press File)
BC VOTES 2020: Former Chilliwack-Kent MLA Barry Penner opines on BC Liberal future

‘There isn’t enough room on the political spectrum … for two free-enterprise parties’

New Chilliwack restaurant moving into supposedly haunted Nowell Street location

Many restaurants have come and gone, Twisted Thistle the most recent, at Nowell and Princess Ave

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stock photo
Pair’s lawsuit dismissed against Fraser Valley soccer association and churches

Judge in Abbotsford calls claims against 14 defendants ‘an abuse of the court’s process’

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Most Read