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

Shawn Magnus of Sidney Courier has partnered with Sidney Business Improvement Area Society for free commercial delivery for society members. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney business association partners with courier for free commercial delivery

Service started Oct. 26 and extends to a radius of 35 kilometres

The Starbucks at 3849 Cadboro Bay Rd. closed permanently on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Google Maps)
Cadboro Bay Starbucks closes despite petition signed by nearly 250 residents

Closure part of transition to more drive-thru locations, Starbucks spokesperson says

The iconic and well-loved live music venue Logan’s is permanently closing its doors due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Google Maps)
Fernwood pub Logan’s permanently closing its doors

Live music venue unable to weather COVID-19 storm

Panthers’ Captain Tanner Wort faces Tory McClintick of the Victoria Cougars during Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre. The Panthers lost 3-0, then lost 7-2 Sunday. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)
Peninsula Panthers’ losing streak reaches four games as injuries mount

Injuries have especially hurt the team’s backline with only four defenders available

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan Bui (left) and Kairry Nguyen at the end of the trial that found Tanessa Nikirk guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Nikirk is back in court for her sentencing hearing. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATED: Court hears letter from driver convicted of hitting Saanich girl

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit in 2017

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read