Budgies herald return of better times at personal care home hit hard by COVID-19
By Marcy-Lynn Larner
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, November 1, 2021
In the old days, workers carried canaries into coal mines as a means of detecting the presence of dangerous gases.
Today, two budgies named Goldie and Links are harbingers of something far more positive: the return – at least to a significant degree – of laughter and a sense of normalcy for the residents, families, and staff at Golden Links Lodge.
Owned by the Oddfellows and Rebekahs, Golden Links Lodge is an 88-bed, not-for-profit personal care home located in St. Vital. During our 40-year history, we've gained a well-earned reputation as a caring home where residents live out their golden years in an atmosphere of dignity, respect, and serenity.
That serenity took the hardest of hits when our facility experienced a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in late last year. Nearly 70 residents contracted the disease, resulting in more than 20 deaths. More than 50 per cent of our complement of 145 staff was also diagnosed with COVID-19, though all survived.
One of the first things you see on our wall when you walk into Golden Links Lodge is a sign that reads, "Our residents do not live in our workplace, we work in their home." It's a feeling I came to recognize the very first day I accepted the position as our facility's chief executive officer five years ago, and it's a firm belief we carry with us to this day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, but as someone who has been on the front lines of an outbreak, I can tell you that the effects of COVID-19 on our extended family of staff, residents and their loved ones (and yes, it is an extended family), was nothing short of devastating.
There's no sugar-coating it. When the outbreak occurred, we struggled to get it under control and while our response was organized, the outbreak itself was chaotic. Staff who had contracted COVID-19 were isolated at home, while those who remained had to take up the slack, often pulling double shifts to maintain the care provided to residents.
It wasn't until the end of January when the outbreak was officially declared resolved. Those months took a heavy toll on everyone involved, and we're glad to have them behind us.
It's too early to declare total victory over COVID-19, but things are looking up. Our facility is once again running a full suite of recreational activities for residents, including singing, pet therapy, bingo, movie nights and, until recently, summer BBQs. It's wonderful to see joy in our residents once again.
As I mentioned, we've officially welcomed Goldie and Links, our two resident budgies. I was skeptical when our Lead Activity Worker suggested we bring birds into our facility, but they've more than earned their keep. They are a much-welcome source of joy for our residents, many of whom stop to watch them or strike up a "conversation".
The birds have become living symbols of hope and a return to the greater sense of normalcy for everyone associated with Golden Links Lodge – staff, residents, and family alike!
We continue to mourn the residents we lost, and I suspect that no one outside of those who work in a healthcare or long-term care setting can truly understand just how deeply each of those losses was felt (and continues to be felt).
I have shared with our staff that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will talk about this time in our history. They will see pictures of many walking with full personal protection equipment (PPE) caring for the sickest. They will read about the losses, the pain and suffering that many endured in our world. They will talk about what warriors their family members were. They will be proud to say that their family lived through the time of COVID-19.
To our staff there really are no words that would be meaningful enough to describe how thankful we are for everything they've done and continue to do! Their commitment, dedication, and love for our residents during this time of COVID-19 is truly inspirational to all.
A sense of optimism is in the air. Many of our residents have told me that they are now looking forward to the days when they can see the faces of family and staff without the need for masks.
It will be a day worthy of celebration and remembrance.
Marcy-Lynn Larner is Chief Executive Officer of Golden Links Lodge. For more information about Golden Links Lodge, visit www.goldenlinks.mb.ca.