The province will need to work on a plan for families to visit their loved ones in longterm care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said Sunday (April 26).
Visitors have been advised to stay away, and largely banned, since provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued guidance on March 20. Henry asked all assisted living facilities to allow “essential visits only,” which has led to a stoppage of family visits.
Hundreds of staff and seniors at longterm care facilities have been infected with the virus, leading to many of B.C.’s 100 deaths. There are currently outbreaks at 19 facilities, with outbreaks at a further 10 homes being declared over. Speaking last week, Henry said seniors in longterm care are offered the “full spectrum of care,” but most do not opt for hospitalization when they get the virus.
On Sunday, Mackenzie said spouses and children must be able to see their loved ones in longterm care. She said that amid B.C.’s “new normal,” the assisted living sector will need to figure out “some form of visits from family members,” before a vaccine is developed – which could be as much as a year away.
She noted that Henry’s guidance did specifically allow for some visits, including for compassionate and palliative care, and to assist with feeding and mobility.
“I am going to be communicating to the care homes to carefully look at that language and make accommodations where they can.”
Mackenzie acknowledged the visits will be highly restricted and may not be possible at all facilities.
“If there is an active outbreak of COVID-19 in the care home that makes it more difficult,” she said.
“People going a year or more without seeing their spouse… is tragic.”
Mackenzie said family members not only support their loved one in the care home but also to be the “eyes that see and the ears that hear” to ensure care is up to standards.