Manitobans living in personal care homes will be able to visit with their loved ones into the winter months with the help of all-season, outdoor shelters commissioned by the provincial government.
The first shelters for personal care homes are expected to be delivered in a few weeks, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Tuesday. The province commissioned the shelters in June to help residents safely visit their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Close to 90 shelters have been produced by PCL Constructors Canada using shipping containers. The shelters are fully insulated, air-conditioned, heated, and have separate entrances for residents and their visitors.
The province suspended visits to personal care homes when cases started to spike in mid-March. Outdoor visits resumed at the end of May and select visitors were allowed back inside in June.
Friesen said the hope is that the new visitation shelters can help make life more normal for residents and their families “even at a time when life is anything but normal.”
“This is going to make the difference for all those Manitobans who need to have that contact with their families and their friends and their loved ones, no matter what’s happening outside their personal care home,” he said.
Each pod will allow one resident and up to five visitors.
With 127 licensed nursing homes in Manitoba, not every care home will get a shelter, however, and not every personal care home may be able to accommodate one on its property, said Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba.
“There are a number of challenges given the physical layout of each of the personal care homes properties, so it won’t be possible in all cases to add a shelter,” she said.
Still, Legeros said the shelters are overall a positive development that will help residents’ mental health and well being.
“I believe that everyone knows how important it is for these seniors and their loved ones to be connected. And we know that if they’re not connected, social isolation can set in fairly quickly,” she said.
“And social isolation brings with it a number of negatives as physical as well as psychological challenges for our seniors.”
Friesen said the provincial government has seen interest from the federal government in the concept, and expects other provinces may use the same model as well to allow visits to continue at care homes.
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