Free online course aims to keep care home residents, staff safe

Course gives basic COVID-19 information and safety procedures for visitors to protect the vulnerable

Visits to long term care and assisted living facilities are once again allowed in B.C., and a new online course is being developed to ensure those visitors are “COVID competent.”

The easy-to-access online orientation course, called “COVID-19: Social Visitation Essentials,” has been developed for families and friends who want to visit loved ones in care.

The course, which takes less than one hour to complete, has been developed by SafeCare BC in collaboration with the Family Caregivers of British Columbia, which has provided $30,000 in initial funding to help ensure free access. Those who complete the orientation will become “COVID competent,” which will increase safety and decrease the demands on facility staff.

Ken Donohue, Director, Communications and Member Services for SafeCare BC, says safety is the main focus.

“That’s paramount. We knew that opening care homes to visitors is extremely important for the social and physical well-being of residents, and that ensuring the health and safety of residents, employees, and visitors was also extremely important,” he said.

“Like any virus, this one has devastating results for vulnerable people, and seniors are in that category. Physically, their bodies are weakened already, so if you introduce a virus it has tragic consequences. We want to make it so that people can visit, which is hugely important, and inject some safety at the same time.”

READ MORE:Interior Health reporting 45 new COVID-19 cases

Donohue says the course was developed for members of the public who aren’t health care workers or professionals, and who might have limited knowledge of COVID-19.

“They might never have been taught how to properly put on and take off personal protective equipment [PPE],” he explains. “Rather than just say ‘The care home is open, go visit,’ we thought that orientation would be helpful.”

The course providesbackground about the COVID-19 virus, basic information about infection prevention and control, instructions about how to properly use PPE, and more. Donohue sees it as good for everyone.

The goal is to make the course freely available to anyone who wants to take it, and they are looking for funding to help offset the cost.

“We have to pay $6 for every user, which could be financially challenging for us, so the more partners we have the greater the opportunity we have to offer this for free.

“And we believe it should be free. We don’t even want a small cost [for users]. We don’t want money to be a barrier. We want easy, free access for everyone.”

Anyone taking the course can do so at their own pace. When they have finished, users print off a completion certificate, which they can show to the care home.

Donohue says people who take the course can help educate others. A lot of people take care of seniors and people with disabilities in their own homes. “The course can give those people that added knowledge and education that would benefit them as well.”

Donohue stresses how crucial visits are to those in care.

“The benefits of visitations are huge. If you have loved ones in care and you haven’t seen them for three or four months, it has a huge impact,” he said. “Think about yourself. If we couldn’t have family or friends come and visit for three or four months, it would make us go crazy.

“Now think of people in care with dementia, who are confused. The impact is huge.”

To enroll in the COVID-19: Social Visitation Essentials orientation, individuals can create their free account now at

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