BC seniors advocate wants plan to allow visitors back in care homes

Apr 26 2020, 2:47 pm

BC’s seniors advocate wants to come up with a framework to allow family members to visit their elderly loved ones in care homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant visitors are restricted at many care homes across the province to prevent outbreaks from starting where the vulnerable residents live.

But faced with the possibility of physical distancing measures being in place for months, the provincial government’s seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says there needs to be some compassionate balance.

For a person in a care home not to be able to see their spouse or adult children for the better part of a year “I think, is tragic,” Mackenzie said at a news conference Sunday.

Right now, the BC Centre for Disease Control has advised long-term care facilities restrict visitors to essential visits only. Essential visits include:

  • Visits for compassionate care (end of life and critical illness)
  • Visits considered paramount to resident care and well being, such as assistance with feeding or mobility

However, Mackenzie said many long-term care homes have implemented blanket no-visitor policies. She said she will be speaking with care home operators to make it clear the province has allowed exceptions for end of life visits.

In a given year, Mackenzie added, a care home might impose visitor restrictions for two or three weeks a year because of influenza outbreaks. This year, the pandemic has already gone on for six weeks. The length of these restrictions is “extraordinary,” Mackenzie said.

She acknowledges visits will not look like they used to for quite some time, but hopes for some compassionate compromise so seniors aren’t living in isolation from their loved ones.

“The whole family can’t come in for the birthday party anymore,” Mackenzie said. “But if the wife goes in with a tablet they can zoom [the rest of the family].”