Every evening, Jordan Isaac stands across the street from the Elm Grove Living Centre in West Toronto and bangs out beats on his drum, leading other cheering community members, with their clinking kitchenware, in their show of support for the long-term care home’s residents and front-line workers.
The 19-year-old with Down syndrome has been coming out with his family around 7:30 p.m. since the beginning of May to cheer up Elm Grove’s residents and employees, who gather at the windows each evening just in time to watch the celebration.
Mr. Isaac says it makes him feel happy to be able to drum in front of the home, especially with his family there to support him.
“All the cheering has really centred around him and his drumming,” said Stella Isaac, his sister. “It’s really special to see him lead in this way and to be a part of this community to make the folks in this living centre happy.”
When physical-distancing measures began in March, a few residents on Gwynne Avenue would bang pots and pans on their porches to express their gratitude to essential workers.
But when the small group of residents – no more than 15 – discovered that Elm Grove, just around the corner, had a COVID-19 outbreak, they decided to go there instead with their pot-banging support.
At that time in April, the home had seen 12 COVID-19-related deaths and 119 cases among its residents and employees. The facility has 126 beds and 162 staff members.
Word spread and more local residents decided to join in. Now, members of the community bordering the home come together every evening for the daily music and cheering session, including some of the neighbourhood children, who dance in front of the home’s windows.
“We’re working hard on staying physically distanced and wearing masks, while at the same time forging connections with the folks who are inside,” Gwynne Avenue resident Stephanie Nixon said. “I feel like I have a relationship with all these people, even though I don’t know their names.”
Elm Grove no longer has an active outbreak, but there are still restrictions in place for who is allowed to enter the home.
As of Friday, 238 long-term care homes in Ontario were deemed COVID-19-free, but 63 facilities were still dealing with outbreaks. There are 611 active cases in residents and 543 in staff across the province, and 1,776 resident deaths and seven staff deaths have been associated with long-term care homes.
Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that beginning June 18, the government will allow some visits to homes that no longer have outbreaks. The homes will allow one visit for each resident each week and it must be outdoors.
Ms. Nixon said local residents near Elm Grove have been cautious, wondering if they’re truly helping, but they’ve received feedback from the home that their actions are appreciated. And of course the residents who keep showing up at the windows every evening are proof.
Stella said she has spoken with people who have parents in the home. They talk to them through the windows and report that their parents are happy with what the neighbourhood residents have been doing.
In addition to the celebrations, parts of the neighbourhood have created their own street “pods” to communicate with each other – to see who needs support. The Gwynne Avenue pod keeps in touch via e-mail.
Allegra Fulton, a member of the Gwynne Avenue pod, said her group contacted Elm Grove to see what the residents might need. “We tried to do things for them, realizing they were in a terrible spot.”
The community group has no end date for the celebrations, but Ms. Fulton says they’ll naturally evolve as the situation changes.
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