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

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

While there is no Halloween event at the fairgrounds this year, the town is still planning fireworks for Oct. 30. File photo.
Oooooh….Awwwww….get ready for Halloween fireworks

Look up and to the north, Friday Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

Decorate, dress up and eat candy. But consider staying home. Black Press photo
EDITORIAL: Think about staying home this Halloween

Like everything in 2020, it has to be different

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Superintendent of the Kelowna RCMP, Kara Triance. (Capital News file)
Non-violent crime, small population contributes to Kelowna’s crime rate spike, says RCMP

Kelowna RCMP is assuring the public the city is a safe place

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Crime up 31 per cent in Vernon in 2019: Statistics Canada

Increase includes a 45 per cent rise in violent Criminal Code violations

A Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020 apartment fire in Penticton killed two and displaced dozens more. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Fatal Penticton apartment fire deemed accidental

The blaze gutted an apartment building on Tuesday morning, killing two people and displacing dozens

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

This Photoshopped version of the crosswalks near the entrance to the Salmon Arm Arts Centre on Hudson Avenue show what is proposed to help create safety for and show inclusivity to the LGBTQ2S+ community. (Salmon Arm Arts Centre image)
Tri-rainbow crosswalk and Progress flag requested to help make Salmon Arm safe

Council will consider budget requests to help make city inclusive to LBGTQ2S+ community

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Most Read