During the weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began, health care aide Patricia Ogilvie saw first-hand the toll social isolation was taking on residents of St. Joseph’s Home. Many had not seen family or friends in over a month, and group recreational activities had been cancelled in an effort to limit any potential spread of the virus.
Patricia knew something had to be done to help residents feel connected and supported. She approached her team with the idea of organizing a drive-by so residents could see their friends and family, even if it had to be from metres away.
“Every day, we go into their rooms, and they want to know when they can see their families again,” Patricia says.
Families loved the idea of the parade, some driving hours to the Medicine Hat facility to make it happen. Around 50 vehicles containing residents’ friends and family, and even members of the community, drove by the home to share their love and support with residents. Some people decorated their vehicles with balloons and held kind messages out their windows. Many stopped to call out to their loved ones.
“The residents were so happy, and there were many tears shed by staff, residents and families,” Patricia recalls. “Their mental health is so important, and we love these people. We’re the only family who get to see them right now.”
Patricia says that while she had the initial idea, it was such a success thanks to the outpouring of support she received from staff across St. Joseph’s Home. Staff quickly called residents’ family members to share their plan and even arranged to have the road blocked off during the parade so cars could stop to greet residents. And on the day of the parade, staff worked diligently to help the residents get ready and go outside, using markers to ensure residents were two metres apart.
“I think it really speaks to our mission of compassion,” she says. “We’re a family at St. Joe’s, and everyone was there to help. No matter what, we always come together.”
For resident Elfie Schau, the parade was just the pick-me-up she needed. Her husband of 58 years lives in the community with their dog, Camilla, and Elfie hadn’t seen them in six weeks. Being able to see them, even if not up close, was a joy for her. She’s been at St. Joseph’s Home for a few months and says the kindness that staff show residents is one of the reasons it’s such a good place to be.
“It was wonderful and so much fun, and the weather was ideal,” Elfie says. “I got to see my husband and my little schnauzer. I couldn’t hug them like I wanted to, but we promised each other we’d make the best of it.”
Patricia says the many smiles and tears of joy at the parade that day instantly lifted the mood of staff, residents and community members alike.
“It was the booster that everybody needed, and the residents looked so relaxed after,” she says.