One year ago, residents in Bria Communities started to talk about the mysterious coronavirus they had heard about in the news. We’ve learned a lot about Covid-19 since then and have lived with restrictions, masks, exposure alerts and the hope of a vaccine. This week hope bloomed into reality as residents in all four Bria independent living seniors’ communities received their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We are thrilled that the Provincial Health Office prioritized vaccines for seniors living in congregate living situations like ours and that they acted quickly, “notes Bria Communities Director Tanya Snow. “Fraser Health came on-site to do clinics, and about 370 seniors in Langley and Tsawwassen received their first vaccination.”
Residents in the long-term care centres at Magnolia Gardens and The Waterford have already received both doses of the vaccine, bringing the total of residents vaccinated to just under 450. Care Centre staff have had access to two doses of vaccine since early January, and many Independent Living staff have received their first vaccination this week.
Peg Buchanan, a resident of The Wexford in Tsawwassen, who celebrated her 95th birthday the day before the vaccination clinic, was delighted to receive the best present she could hope for—a Covid-19 vaccine. “Things are really looking up,” she said, summing up the general opinion among residents.
“It felt a bit like a party during our clinic,” says Jane Bryce, the General Manager at The Wexford, “even with masks and social distancing, there was a feeling of celebration in the air. It’s been a long year for residents and staff, and we’re all ready to get back to the ‘old normal.'”
The friendships and social lives residents enjoy when living in a retirement community are among the biggest advantages of retirement living in a seniors’ home. “We’re like a big family here,” notes Jane of the 65 seniors who live at The Wexford. “This first vaccine means we’re that much closer to being able to return to normal family life— parties, pub afternoons, live entertainment, and bus trips—all the things that make life full and fun.”
Residents and their family members are anxious for the removal of masks, gathering size limits and visiting restrictions, but the timeline for these events is still unknown. “The science is all very new, and we’re in uncharted territory,” notes Tanya Snow. “We’ll be taking guidance from Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Public Health Authority as we navigate how day-to-day life will change in our communities. While we’re hopeful these changes will come quickly; we have to acknowledge that there are a lot of unknowns.”
In the meantime, essential visitor restrictions imposed by the ongoing provincial health order are still in effect. Within Bria Communities, residents continue to maintain safe social distance, engage in smaller recreation gatherings, and for the most part, wear masks while in shared spaces.
While residents and staff alike look forward to taking off masks, ditching social distancing and visiting with family, it’s unclear when that will happen. Tanya encourages residents and staff to be patient. “We’ve come this far, and now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we know we’ll make it!”