- Nathan Raine | March 08, 2021
As soon as she got her COVID-19 vaccination, Elder Margaret Masney was eagerly waiting to meet her loved ones.
“I have so many grandkids and great-grandkids. The youngest is a year old and we haven’t been able to meet in person yet because of COVID. I want our family to feel safe visiting each other,” she said last week.
She is one of the Elders in Regina receiving vaccinations, weekly meals, and other essential supports thanks to Wellness Wheel.
On March 3 and 4, a group of about 25 Elders, all over 70, received the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations at a temporary immunization clinic set up at The Gathering Place. Wellness Wheel, a non-profit community-led research team, partnered with Regina Treaty Status Indian Services (RTSIS), Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) and First Nations and Métis leaders to ensure Elders living off-reserve in an urban setting still being supported.
“We want to make sure that no one slips through the cracks,” said Cody Lloyd, communications specialist with Wellness Wheel.
The two days of vaccinations served as a spark for hope, she said.
“It was a sort of light at the end of the tunnel for people who have waited so patiently and who have been so careful. They’re one step closer to being able to spend time with their families, and meet the great-grandchildren they’ve never met before. It was a beautiful day,” said Lloyd.
In order to provide culturally sensitive immunizations in a comfortable setting, Wellness Wheel first told the Elders exactly what they were taking, what to expect from the vaccination, and what precautions still need to be taken.
“I didn’t know much about the vaccine. I was really nervous to get it, but it didn’t hurt and they were so quick. I can see a light at the end of this now,” said Elder Lillian Piapot.
Lloyd said many of the Elders received vaccinations from medical professional they already had a trusting relationship with.
“(One of the Elders), was vaccinated by a nurse she’s worked with for years. They’ve had a previous relationship, they trusted each other, they’ve been through ceremonies together, they’ve spent time together outside of clinics. That’s really important to Wellness Wheel. All the work we do stems from the relationships we build in the community.”
Last March, after the team at Wellness Wheel became aware of some elders in the Regina area who had recently been released from hospital and were vulnerable to infection, they began to offer supports to Elders. Quickly, the group of Elders they were caring for grew to about 60. Wellness Wheel has been supporting them ever since with weekly meals, grocery trips, visits, and whatever else comes up.
“I think the isolation is the most challenging thing. Not just the removal of physical touch and hugs, but a lot of them already live alone,” said Lloyd.
“So someone to visit them, maybe play the guitar or take them for a walk or bring them a meal, it lifts people’s spirits. One of the most important things is lifting people’s spirits and making sure they know that there’s people who care for them.”
The Elders who received their first round of vaccinations this week will receive their second round on March 24 and 25.