Back to all news

Practising Eden in an environment of social distancing

March 26th, 2020

As employee care partners across Points West Living work to protect residents from the threat of COVID-19, there’s the constant call of ‘Eden’ in how that care is provided. The Eden Alternative vision to ‘eliminate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom’ among residents becomes particularly challenging when protection requires ‘social distancing’ and isolation. Here are a few examples of how one community is juggling those challenges.

New reality, new plans

As Recreation Therapist Lisa Smith listened to news and updates about COVIC-19 on Sunday March 15, she says, “With so much closing down, I knew that Monday at Points West Living Stettler would be a busy day.”

Her first job was to toss out her recreation calendar. “We had two major programs we had to cancel that day so I contacted volunteers and entertainers and let them know they could no longer come. I quickly made a new calendar for the week that removed entertainment and adjusted programming.”

Replacing inter-cottage activities... and bingo

“We decided we no longer wanted to bring residents from one cottage to another,” she says, “so we had to increase the number of programs to provide opportunities for everything in all cottages.” That means the recreation team is taking what may have been planned as one big event, and doing it five times.

“We have had to cut out some of our residents’ favorite programs such as card bingo, shuffle board, and noodle exercise because they involve touching by multiple residents. We are looking to find new program ideas to keep the variety up.

Wash everything all the time

“We also need to wash everything all the time,” Lisa adds; “Our hands, our cart, our sound system; everything. We are very hyperaware about keeping our residents safe.”

Helping residents stay connected

“One of the greatest concerns is isolation,” Lisa says. “Residents who are used to having a lot of friends and family visit no longer have that. So my first goal is to talk to those individuals and try to ensure they are able to call and connect with their family.” One resident Lisa has already helped is Linda Watt (pictured with Lisa above). Linda has a telephone but before COVID she’d never had to use it and didn’t have the phone numbers of her family and friends. Lisa called Linda’s daughter, got those numbers and made up a laminated large print sheet for her to use.

Lisa says so far residents seem to be doing well. “We are very early in the Alberta Health mandated visiting restrictions, so we are trying to anticipate which residents may struggle with the changes and take pre-emptive action to meet their needs.”

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Lisa points out that in addition to the increased responsibilities required in their service to residents, most employee care partners are also dealing with disruptions with their family members’ school, social, work, and childcare needs.

“We know this is a marathon and not a sprint,” says Lisa, “so I am striving to create a schedule that can be maintained without burnout.”

Photo: Recreation Therapist Lisa Smith and PWL Stettler resident Linda Watt check out the telephone contact sheet (blurred for privacy) Lisa made so Linda can independently phone her circle of family and friends.

Back to all news

This news service is for and about you. If you have feedback, photos and story ideas you'd like to contribute, please email them to