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Resources and Updates

January 11th, 2021

Dear Optima Residents, Employees, and Stakeholders,

On behalf of all of us at Optima Living, Happy New Year!


2020 was a memorable year, for all the reasons we know. In mid-March, a once-in-a-century event, COVID-19, hit the entire world and went on to disrupt our lives. Thankfully, as the year came to a close, a vaccine was discovered that gave some hope for normalcy in 2021.

Currently, residents and staff at several of our communities have received vaccinations, and we look forward to ensuring all residents and employees, regardless of where they’re located, have the same protection. Looking back at the past year, we would like to share and reflect on what 2020 meant for us and what insights we gained from this time.

First and foremost, the power of human resilience triumphed as employees connected to our core mission: Let us welcome you home.Despite some sad and sometimes even tragic situations happening around them, employees went to work every day to look after our most vulnerable. In turn, Optima Living leaders worked hard to provide the necessary support and resources, ensuring their safety and the safety of all residents.

We had 93-year-old residents learn how to Zoom, FaceTime, and use other technology we never before imagined possible during this period. We saw firsthand the generosity and kindness from businesses and the general public; whether it was dropping off flowers for residents, families standing outside serenading our residents, or in the early days of COVID-19, suppliers donating masks to ensure we had sufficient supply.

Second, as an organization and as leaders, we had to pivot. In early April, we met as a leadership team to strategize and make some key decisions that would guide us through the rest of the year. We realized that the crisis allowed us to connect around our common purpose and reinforce our values and commitment to residents. Here are some of the key achievements:

Ensured safety always came first: We prioritized science above all else and focused on ensuring the safest environment for all residents regardless of the care environment. This meant that early on, Independent Living residences could benefit from the portfolio-wide clinical knowledge gained in Assisted Living, Mental Health and/or Long Term care on maintaining the health and safety of our residents and employees. Infection control protocols included implementing all recommendations from the Public Health Authorities and often exceeding those guidelines, such as: Universal masking for care partners; Enhanced and active screening for the virus; Limiting access to essential visitors only; Enhanced cleaning and sanitation; Infection control and outbreak plans; and Ensuring adequate supplies of PPE.

Recorded extremely low numbers of positive cases: As a result of careful and conservative management and a strong clinical approach that closely followed the science, all Optima Living communities were COVID free until October 2020. Since then, we have had three sites with active cases, all but two were cleared by end of year. We have one site that is currently under outbreak that is being actively managed.

Invested in Web and Social Media to reach out and connect: We revamped our website to better communicate with potential residents, influencers, and external stakeholders. We partnered with a marketing agency to manage our social channels and invested in communicating about our operating philosophy regularly. Further, we launched monthly virtual coffee chats in April, which continue now as successful outreach initiatives.

Invested in knowledge to maintain excellence in service and care delivery: With the Universities of Alberta and Manitoba, we created knowledge partnerships. By doing this, we leveraged their knowledge and our know-how of the market to feature webinars on important topics for seniors such as healthy aging, dealing with Alzheimer’s, surviving loneliness during COVID. And we did it all through our new YouTube channel.

Amplified Our Voice: We communicated and then communicated some more. We extensively communicated with residents, employees, and investors using many different methods to engage and get out our messages, such as virtual employee town hall meetings and regular website updates.

Built Community Leadership: We assumed leadership roles in B.C. and Alberta with the Ministries of Health around COVID-19 policies at our sites as well as actively participated in industry associations at the executive and task force levels to ensure our voice was heard.

Third, we stayed the course. The days and months were long, and we often discussed and debated our strategy and the path set out in April., But we stayed the course and remained committed. Looking back, it was the right decision. By staying true to the Optima Way, we maintained our purpose and values.

As 2021 begins, there is some light starting to shine. Our industry has forever changed. Over time, we believe this change will be positive since it will drive government resources to the sector. Such a positive change will also drive change for operators and require even more innovation and better ways of delivering services. From all of this, residents, their families, and employees will be the beneficiaries.

We look forward to a time sometime this year when we can see each other freely again and make those meaningful human connections.

Stay Safe. Be Well. Take Care.

Farid Damji | Co-Founder & Principal
Optima Living



Latest guidelines for protecting residents at congregate care facilities in Alberta: https://www.alberta.ca/protecting-residents-at-congregate-care-facilities.aspx#toc-1

– Up to two essential visitors, identified by the Resident, may visit at a time in Long-Term Care, Supportive Living, and other Congregate Living Settings during non-outbreak periods. The visitor must be identified on the essential visitor list on site.

– Each visitor must be verified and be on a list provided by the resident. They will undergo a health screening prior to entering the community. This will include a temperature check and a questionnaire.

– Visits must occur in the resident’s room, great room or outdoor patio when arranged with the site staff and prior to the scheduled visit.

– Visitors must be feeling well and not displaying any symptoms at the time of visit and ensure they have cleared all of the questions on the questionnaire.

– In the case of palliative or end-of-life visitation, more than two visitors are allowed, following screening and upon checking with the site Manager. Masks and hand hygiene are still required.

British Columbia

Latest guidelines for B.C. health updates: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care..

– Visitors must follow the guidelines as per Public Health. Call the residence to book your visit and ask about restriction changes for that specific day.

– Please note that there is a new B.C. visitation policy as of November 11th. To learn more, click here.

– Residents are permitted one essential visitor (unless visits are of a palliative nature).

– Please note that there is a new B.C. mask policy as of November 9th. To learn more, click here.

– You will be screened for signs and symptoms of illness, including COVID-19 and possible exposure to COVID-19, prior to every visit.

– Only outdoor walks with visitors are allowed, with masks and physical distance.

Essential Visits at Long-term and Acute Care Communities for B.C.

The essential visitor policy remains in effect at long-term care and acute care communities. Essential visits are:

– Visits for compassionate care such as critical illness, hospice care, end of life and Medical Assistance in Dying.

– Communication assistance, and supported decision-making for people with disabilities or cognitive impairment.

– Visits essential to patient/client care and well-being including: Assistance with feeding, mobility, and personal care and existing registered volunteers providing services as described.

We continue to encourage the designated essential visitor to visit their loved one on site. Please pre-book your visit with the residence during this time of COVID-19 restrictions to keep everyone safe.




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For Strathcona County, the most authoritative news source is strathcona.ca/covid19. There, you’ll find all of the latest news on the development of the virus, as well as details of the latest action taken against it within Strathcona County.

For the latest news, updates, and resources:

  • • Strathcona County Emergency Advisory Committee, click here.
  • • Alberta Health Services, click here. This includes a great self assessment tool.
  • • Government of Alberta, click here.
  • • How the Government of Canada is handling matters, click here.
  • • World Health Organization, click here.

Online Entertainment

  • • To tour museums all around the world, click here.
  • • To check out digital concerts and plays, click here.
  • • Travel the world from your own couch by clicking here.

Emergency Financial Assistance

In the case of unexpected emergencies, the province of Alberta has infrastructure designed to provide temporary financial help for food, child care, transportation, accommodation, and more. Check alberta.ca or call 1-866-644-5135 to see if you qualify.


At this time, all Strathcona County transit routes remain operational. They also offer a Mobility Bus service for those who, due to a physical or functional limitation, cannot use the fixed-route service. For more information on transit, click here or call 780-449-9680.


People of all ages seek counselling for any number of reasons. The Strathcona County counselling team includes psychologists and clinical social workers that are happy to talk to you. Call 780-464-4044 with any issue you would like to discuss.

The Alberta Government has established a program called Text4Hope. If you are feeling stress, anxiety, or depression due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they can help. This free service will provide three months of daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy–based text messages written by mental health therapists. Simply text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe. Click here for more information.

Solutions Navigation

The Solutions Navigation team can help you find your way through life’s issues, including ones pertinent to today’s unusual circumstances. Give them a call at 780-464-4044. For any issue you may have, such as access to food, pharmaceuticals, or social isolation, get in touch with the Navigators. They are always happy to help.

Crisis Contact Numbers

The complete list of crisis contact numbers—including Alberta Health Services and the Strathcona County Elder Abuse Line—is listed on the Strathcona County website. Click here to see them.

Social Isolation

If you know a senior who may be isolated, reach out to them. Click here for tips and information about social isolation and how to prevent it.

These may be trying times, but the team at Aster Gardens truly believes in the strength of the Strathcona County community. We know that, if we work together, we will overcome this and any other challenge that gets thrown our way. We’re on your side.

Get in touch with us any time for any questions you may have.

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