The beginning of hope for people living in LCDS homes

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Carly Pembleton Crawford looks out of the corner of her eye to see if her vaccine is done. She was one of about 90 LCDS clients getting the COVID-19 shot Monday in Petrolia. Heather Wright Photo

Heather Wright/The Independent

Carly Pembleton Crawford is dreaming of the things she loves to do.

For the 23 year-old who is a client of Lambton County Developmental Services this has been a very long year waiting out COVID-19.

Residents of the local congregate care homes have been staying inside, visiting with family and friends virtually and only leaving with the approval of LCDS staff.

For someone used to getting together with family and friends, heading out shopping or volunteering with Parkway Church in Corunna to deliver meals, staying at home has been difficult for Pembleton Crawford.

“It’s been rough, really hard,” she says from beneath the mask on her face.
Nick Salaris, the executive director of LCDS, agrees.

“It’s been tough. Basically it’s very similar to long term care or group living situations,” he says. “It’s been hard on the people, they’ve been phenomenal. They’ve basically been in their homes for 13 months.”

Through that time, Salaris says not one LCDS client has tested positive for COVID-19 although a handful of their workers have.

Salaris says the success of keeping COVID at bay with the pandemic restrictions has been tempered because it has been tough on the clients and their families.

“They haven’t been able to have that physical contact… we’ve done a lot of great things as far as virtual, but it’s not the same.

“Obviously, there’s mental health concerns with people, you know, and anxiety and all those sorts of things…we’ve done the best we can to provide opportunities for people to do things a bit differently, but it’s not the same as that hug and that family contact.”

Pembleton Crawford has been trying to keep busy to pass the pandemic days away.
“I do knitting. I knit hats. I do scrapbooking. I’m play board games with my roommate Teresa, clean the house… it’s trying to keep myself busy,” she says.

Monday brought something different to do, one of the few times during the last 13 months she’s been able to leave her home. And it was for a very good reason. Pembleton Crawford was one of about 90 LCDS clients who arrived at the organization’s Center Street offices to get the first shot of her COVID-19 vaccine. While you couldn’t see her smile, the excitement was in her eyes.

“It feels amazing,” she said as she waited the required 15 minutes to make sure there were no side effects from getting the shot. “Really awesome.”

And she was thinking about all the things she hopes to be able to do again soon – like giving her roommate a big hug and being with her family.

“I’m going to be meeting with my friends and family and going shopping, going down to the Bluewater Bridge. I’m doing volunteering again…I love doing that.”

When that will happen isn’t clear yet. Like long term care homes, the rules keeping residents confined to their homes haven’t eased up yet.

And Salaris says they’re still waiting to hear from the province when vaccinated people, like Pembleton Crawford, will have more freedom.

And Salaris says there is the added problem that not everyone will get the vaccine and that could limit what LCDS clients can do.

But he’s hopeful the tide is turning and the people they serve will soon have more freedom. Salaris says they need it.

“We’ve seen people just falter, like they’re just not who they were. And we’re hoping that we can get there again, and I’m hoping that it’s not too late.”