Editorial: Elders in care and isolation

For much of the general public, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on seniors in care is measured solely by the number of deaths and care-home outbreaks, and whatever it takes to prevent both is worth it.

While it’s hard to disagree with that last point, the cost of containment has been extremely high for the elderly in care and their families, as B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie acknowledged at a press conference last week.

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“Without a doubt, one of the most heart-breaking sacrifices that has been required of seniors and their loved ones has been for those 40,000 or so seniors who live in long-term care and assisted living that went without visits for over three months and who are still struggling with our revised visit limitations,” Ms. Mackenzie said.

On the Sunshine Coast, family members struggling with visitor protocols have raised questions to this paper about the effectiveness of Zoom meetings and window visits, especially for seniors with dementia. They’ve asked why they cannot hug their loved ones when they visit if they wear gowns, masks and gloves, although staff can have physical contact, and why at some facilities no visits are allowed on Sundays or statutory holidays.

“While all of us fully support measures intended to keep COVID-19 out of our care homes, many of us also feel that there are safe ways to make visiting our loved ones more meaningful,” said one woman whose husband is living at Totem Lodge.

“My husband will celebrate his 92nd birthday on Sept. 6,” she said. “It may well be his last birthday. I am not permitted to visit him on this day because it is a Sunday. Even if I could visit him, I am not permitted to give him a hug.”

The seniors advocate office has heard similar concerns from people across the province and last week announced the launch of a survey for long-term-care and assisted-living residents and their families on the impact of visitor restrictions.

The survey asks how the easing of restrictions on June 30 to allow for one designated visitor has worked out for residents and family members, and it invites ideas for improvement. The aim is to achieve “the right balance between risk and the need to find a way to live through this pandemic for the next year or so.”

This is a case where a few good ideas could lead to seemingly small changes that might make a world of difference to many families. If you can contribute, please do.

The survey is available at www.carehomevisits.ca. Or you can call the seniors advocate office at 1-877-952-3181 to have a copy mailed to you or to book a time to complete the survey over the phone. Feedback is being accepted until Sept. 30.


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