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'We have to find a way': Seniors advocate wants plan to allow visitors at B.C. care homes

Last Updated Apr 26, 2020 at 7:19 pm PDT

FILE -- The Dufferin Care Centre in Coquitlam is one of 19 long-term care homes with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Courtesy google maps)

Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says it has been six weeks since visits were allowed which she says is 'tragic'

Mackenzie supports a plan to reintroduce visits in a safe way, particularly when a resident is near the end of life

As of Saturday, there were active outbreaks at 19 of the over 300 facilities in B.C.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — It’s been six weeks since people in B.C. have been able to visit their loved ones at long-term care homes, and the province’s seniors advocate says she supports a plan to safely start letting family back in.

Isobel Mackenzie said Sunday while she anticipates some restrictions will remain in place for at least a year, she supports finding a way to allow some guests in, especially at facilities where there is no outbreak and in cases when residents are nearing the end of their lives.

“People going a year or more without seeing their spouse or adult children is tragic, and I think we have to find a way. We have to do it safely but we have to make an effort. ”

“The overwhelming majority are not in active outbreak and they could find a way — and I will certainly be encouraging them to find a way — for families to be with their loved ones when they are dying,” Mackenzie said.

The majority of people who have died from COVID-19 in the province have been seniors residing in long-term care homes.

As of Saturday, there were active outbreaks at 19 facilities. There are over 300 long-terms care homes and assisted living facilities in the province.

Mackenzie said visitors are crucial to break the isolation of seniors, and to keep an eye on conditions in residential facilities.

“Family members are, first of all, able to support their loved one in the care home, and secondly, are able to be reassured of what is happening in care homes, being sort of the eyes that see and the ears that hear.”

In places where visits won’t be possible, she says an effort should be made to get timely information to relatives.

“These family members, they’re going to be very scared about their mom or dad in a care home and we have to find the time — and I know it’s very difficult but we’re going to have to– we are going to have to find a way to do that and get the resources there so that people can hear about how their loved one is doing.”

Mackenzie also said online or telephone communication simply isn’t possible for some seniors, which is all the more reason to start figuring out how to safely allow some visitors.