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Lac La Biche staff save seniors

April 1, 2014

Seniors evacuated after pipe bursts

Story written by Sara Warr; photo by Tracy Smith

Seniors living in the LacAlta Lodge in Lac La Biche were safely evacuated last month after a pipe burst on the building’s second floor causing flooding in the building, with help from Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Greater North Foundation staff members.

“Water was pouring through the light fixtures. We had to get everyone downstairs, and the elevators weren’t working,” said Tracy Smith, AHS Area Seniors Manager for Lac La Biche, Smoky Lake, Kikino and Buffalo Lake.

“Lodge Management made the decision to evacuate the facility, in consultation with local authorities.”

Chantell Malbeuf, home support aide, and homecare client Josephine PlamondonThe incident happened on January 15 during an unrelated power outage, caused by extreme winds throughout the region.

“People were distraught,” says Smith. “Some were concerned about what would happen to their personal belongings and where they would go. People were worried about their family. Stress levels were heightened.”

Operated by the Greater North Foundation and staffed in partnership with AHS, the Lodge houses 63 residents. AHS Health Care Aides, Case Managers and an on-call RN all work closely with Lodge staff and the residents and their families in helping to provide appropriate care.

“Homecare staff played a crucial role in gathering the resident’s medications and ensuring their care plans were shared with wherever they were relocating to, all while helping to keep people calm,” Smith says. “Everyone joined forces and worked together to make sure we all stayed safe and efficient.”

The Foundation took on the task of contacting resident’s families, some of whom were able to come and help. A mini emergency centre was set up, with Lodge management and AHS staff combining forces to find out where residents could be placed to best care for each individual’s needs.

“Through this experience, we developed a stronger relationship and awareness of each other’s strengths, and knowledge about the individuals who called the LacAlta Lodge home. We utilized that shared resource to look at the best possible way to care for people. Like most emergency situations, there were lessons learned, but we did work together really well,” says Smith.

Some residents temporarily relocated to family homes, and others were moved to surrounding facilities, including the Smoky Lake, Radway, and Lac La Biche continuing care centres, the Smoky Lake Bar V Nook Manor and the Boyle Senior Citizens Lodge. The Lac La Biche County Paratransit Handibus voluntarily helped transport people.

“The other sites were very welcoming, asking what they can do to help,” Smith adds. “The experience has shown the resilience of staff and their ability to think outside the box.”

She says the situation has also helped put things in perspective.

“It really gave us a better appreciation for how difficult things must have been last spring with the flooding in southern Alberta. It’s been a hardship for us, but we know it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. We’ve supported one another and it didn’t affect the level of care we provide.”

Residents were able to return to the Lodge a few weeks later after the mess had been mopped up. Smith says they were glad to return.

“One resident said it all when she got back. She said it feels like the first day back to school. There were hugs and smiles everywhere. I guess there really is no place like home. A big thanks to everyone who helped out along the way.”