As the COVID-19 lockdown heads into its third month, you’ve probably finished watching Tiger King, you’ve exhausted your reading list, and you’re getting sick of living within the four walls of an apartment.
Living in a high-density community during a time of COVID-19 physical distancing measures offers unique challenges. Many have little private green space and may share elevators or laundry facilities, adding stress about the spread of the virus. The societal pressure to remain productive can become another source of stress. It is more important than ever to take care of our mental health. Here are some tips on staying healthy from an expert and two residents of the core.
Dr. Karen Lee – Venture outside safely
Dr. Karen Lee is a University of Alberta professor and author of Fit Cities, whose work has focused on how to improve health in large urban populations. Lee’s recommendation? Get outside, but do so responsibly. “One of the ways to stay healthy is to go out into the public spaces that have enough space for us to socially distance,” said Lee. “For example, in Oliver, we have Railtown Park with the multi-use trails.”
Although this strategy may seem obvious, some are understandably hesitant to leave the house. There are other healthy coping methods that don’t require leaving home.
Hope Docking – Engage in a virtual social life
Hope Docking, a downtown resident, has found solace by staying socially active through virtual means. “I’ve begun playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends,” said Docking. “It takes some pushing to get everyone to choose a time but it’s really helped me get some sort of social time in.” Being able to maintain a healthy social structure may make the lockdown bearable, or even pleasant. Docking also has some external motivation: “There is also a magpie building a nest outside my window so I have to check in on her every day.”
Kali Wells – Go easy on yourself
Kali Wells, an Oliver resident, has adapted to quarantine in high density through a modified version of her normal health routine. “’I’ve been working out, doing so much yoga at home, and meditating,” said Wells. A mental health strategy that Wells said has helped is self-forgiveness. “When you’re living a life where you are constantly going, there’s always so much stimulus in your life,” said Wells. “When there is so little stimulating you in that way, when the new normal is to wake up and move to the couch, it can be difficult. But I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.”
Be good to yourself, stay mentally healthy and physically active, and remember: physical isolation does not have to mean social isolation.
There are many avenues to access health care in central Edmonton, the key is deciding what’s right for you.
Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network. PCNs have an online tool to help in finding a family doctor – Alberta Find A Doctor. You can also call Healthlink at 811 if that tool doesn’t work for you. There were more than a dozen physicians accepting new patients in July this year.
Healthlink also offers nurse advice and general health information which can be accessed by calling 811. This option is often criticized because of a perception that the go-to response is to tell the caller to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.
There are also two emergency wards nearby, at Royal Alexandra and University hospitals. These are the places to go when facing life-threatening emergencies. AHS provides a handy tool listing emergency ward wait times here. Click on the Edmonton tab for local waits.
The Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network offers a list of family physicians in the Oliver vicinity who are accepting people into care including those practising at the Allin Clinic at 10155 – 120 Street, West Oliver Medical Centre at 10538 – 124 Street, and Generations Family Physicians at 12220 Stony Plain Road.
They also offer some excellent health prevention services including a series of free nutrition classes including Healthy Meal Planning and Cooking For One. Their fitness support includes a free weekly exercise program offering 90 minute river valley walk accompanied by a family physician and a kinesiologist, and you can request a Prescription to Get Active which is a one-month fitness pass to GoodLife Fitness in the Brewery District, the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness Centre, or the Don Wheaton YMCA.
Medical clinics and medicentres are an option for those without a family doctor. There are several in Oliver along Jasper Avenue, and there is one downtown. These clinics accept walk-ins but don’t do medical emergencies. The first thing their recorded messages tells callers is to phone 911 if the call is an emergency. Downtown east of 109 Street has been known as a bit of a health desert but there are a few new options that have opened up in recent years – notably the innovative SAGE seniors centre. SAGE, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton at 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square, offers comprehensive health services, mostly provided by nurse practitioners, who can do much of what doctors do. SAGE medical office assistant Shay Brooks says they can do wound care, foot care, and much more. They can also do home visits in the central area from Westmount to Gretzky Drive. And their care is not strictly limited to seniors, anyone over 50 is welcome. There is also a bus program available.
Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network.
On the east and north edges of downtown, there is the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street and a number of clinics north of downtown along 107 Avenue, including those which provide services in languages other than English including Arabic.
MacEwan University students at the downtown campus can avail themselves of a collaboration with the Faculty of Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The MacEwan University Medical Centre is touted as a clinical teaching space that trains doctors, medical students and residents, as well as nurses and medical assistants. Students are assigned a family doctor on first visit staff try to book subsequent visits with this physician. Trainees are supervised by this doctor. And there are mental health professionals on site.
Prenatal Care is available by referral at the Mom Care Docs Low Risk Obstetrics Clinic at the Allin Clinic. A shortage of midwives means midwifery care is hard-to-come-by in Edmonton, and it’s even harder to come by in the core as all of the midwifery clinics have moved to the ‘burbs, but you can fill out a request for care at the central intake registry at Alberta Midwives. And if you know one of the approximately 100 pregnant women in Edmonton experiencing homelessness, you can connect her to the Pregnancy Pathways Program at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 780-249-7002. Newcomers needing culturally responsive perinatal care and referrals can contact the Multicultural Health Brokers at 9538 – 107 Avenue, 780-423-1973.
If you think you may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, there’s a clinic for that, at 11111 Jasper Avenue open during office hours. You can also call 811. There is a separate STI clinic for gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men with drop-ins Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 11745 Jasper Avenue (Bath House; Entrance in back alley, downstairs; Outreach Office in the Steamworks Building). The STI clinics do not offer birth control services but teens and young adults experiencing barriers to sexual health and birth control services can access free birth control and other care at the Birth Control Centre at 405 North Tower, 10030 107 Street, 780-735-0010. Sexual health and wellness services including education for community groups around sexual health, healthy sexual relationships, and consent; support for individuals around sexual health, STIs, pregnancy testing, and reproductive rights; and multicultural community outreach are available at the YWCA at #400, 10080 Jasper Ave, 780-429-3342. YWCA of Edmonton
Mental Health information is available from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Their downtown office is at 10010 105 St NW #300. There is 24-hour help available at 780-482-HELP (4357).
After seeing a physician or nurse practitioner laboratory services are often called for. Dynalife has locations downtown at 250,10405 Jasper Avenue – and in Oliver, 11936 104 Ave. There is also a lab located at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street.
If you need urgent care but aren’t able to get into a medicentre and aren’t sure you need the ER, you may want to contact a prescribing pharmacist. They can renew, adapt or modify prescriptions, and can provide prescriptions in an emergency. Oliver Place, Standard Life and Jasper/117 Shoppers and Rexall Ice District and Jasper 118 all offer the service. Hours vary, but the late-night pharmacy on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street is open until midnight.