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Seniors advocate calls for increased visits at B.C. care homes

Last Updated Nov 3, 2020 at 7:24 pm PST

Summary

Most residents of care homes would rather catch COVID-19 than be alone: survey

Isobel Mackenzie, the seniors advocate, is calling for more visitors to be allowed as part of three recommendations

While 151 long-term care residents have died from COVID-19, 4,500 have passed away during same time from other causes

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Most residents of care homes would rather catch COVID-19 than be alone, according to a new report from the B.C. Seniors Advocate.

The report, Staying Apart to Stay Safe, was released Tuesday and looks at the affects of restrictions on visits at long-term care and assisted living facilities.

Isobel Mackenzie, the seniors advocate, is calling for more visitors to be allowed as part of three recommendations.

She admits that if more people are allowed to visit, the possibility that the virus will find its way into care homes increases.

However, many residents fear isolation or dying alone more than they do the virus, according to the survey of thousands of residents and their family members.

“The context here is to listen to the people who live there who are saying that’s not the risk that they fear the most. We have risk everywhere out there. We have children going to school, teachers going to work. We have people getting on buses, we have drivers driving buses, we have people in grocery stores, people shopping and grocery stores,” Mackenzie said.

“When do we start to say to the person living in long-term care — at what point — they’re never going to see their daughter again,” she added.

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“That daughter may have come to visit them every other day, let’s say — this is not uncommon — you’ve got the spouse is the one that’s the designated visitor, they come every day. Their daughter used to pop in and see dad three, four times a week. She hasn’t seen him now for almost nine months. Is she never going to get to see him again? Because he’s going to die. Not from COVID. And that’s the challenge here.”

Mackenzie said visitor restrictions brought in at the beginning of the pandemic were eased in the summer, but that hasn’t helped much as some families visited care homes

Most visits are still only once a week, and 30 minutes or less, she added, while 70 per cent of visitors are not allowed to touch their loved ones, even for a hug.

Some others are separated by Plexiglass.

Pari Khorasanee, from Port Moody, hopes she’s be allowed to hug her 96-year-old mother soon. Her mother has dementia and has been in long-term care since about five days before COVID-19 restrictions were first imposed.

“We’re not the enemy,” Khorasanee said. “We understand what’s going on in the world and we want our families to be safe. We want everybody to be safe and we understand the need for proper PPE, so I hope they’ll have a better perspective to this than just hiring thousands of people to just police us. I hope they will see us in a better light.”

Khorasanee added currently visits with her mother are divided by glass and she has to constantly explain they are not allowed to touch because of the pandemic.

Mackenzie said a better balance between safety and quality of life is needed. She also insisted visits need to happen in private rooms. 

She pointed out that while 151 long-term care residents in B.C. have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, around 4,500 others have passed away from another cause.


The province reported a three-day record 1,120 new COVID-19 cases for the three reporting periods over the weekend, as well as six deaths.

All six were in long-term care.

The province also reported three new healthcare outbreaks Monday and another on Tuesday.

Outbreaks are now active at 27 long-term care and assisted living facilities and two acute care units.

Mackenzie recommends all care home residents have a designated essential care partner and to create a provincial association for residents and their families, along with allowing social visitors, based on risk and balancing need for contact.

Mackenzie said she’s spoken with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and hopes changes can be made as early as next week.

Fraser Health Authority President and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee said whether she supports expanding visitations in long-term care homes depends on what that looks like.

She added ensuring quality of life for people in long-term care has to be balanced with the need to keep them safe from the virus.

Read the full report:

StayingApartToStaySafe-Report