B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie describes the findings of her survey of long-term care and assisted living residents under pandemic restrictions, B.C. legislature, Nov. 3, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie describes the findings of her survey of long-term care and assisted living residents under pandemic restrictions, B.C. legislature, Nov. 3, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. seniors suffer from isolation, depression in COVID-19

Care home visit restrictions go beyond public health orders

B.C. seniors are showing medical as well as emotional effects from isolation in long-term care homes, including an increased use of anti-psychotic medications.

An extensive survey of care home and assisted living residents by B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie heard tragic stories of the effects of strict visitor restrictions, where relatives who had helped seniors with meals, hair brushing and other essential personal assistance were told to keep their distance, shorten visits, or not visit at all.

“Many residents are despondent as the only thing they look forward to is receiving a visit from their family,” Mackenzie wrote in her latest report, released Nov. 3. “There are also early warning signs of measurable health impacts. After many recent years of stability, the rate of antipsychotic use for residents in long-term care has increased seven per cent during this pandemic and initial reports from the quarterly assessments show troubling trends of unintended weight loss and worsening of mood among long-term care residents.”

A quarter of long-term care residents die each year, and end-of-life visitation was affected as well as day-to-day help. More than eight out of 10 respondents indicated that before the pandemic, their loved one had additional people such as paid companions, physical therapists or hairdressers to help them. Personal care services are considered essential by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with assistance in feeding, mobility and communication, such as using a phone.

Visits were restricted to essential only in March after COVID-19 transmission began in care facilities, and on June 28 one “social” visitor was allowed. The report found that most care home operators went beyond the public health orders in restricting visits to a single person. The report included some personal descriptions of the results of separation for up to six months. One resident said her sister became the designated visitor for their 98-year-old mother, meaning she couldn’t visit and her sister had to provide what both had shared.

“I have asked if we could alternate monthly, one month my sister, the next month me; however this was refused,” the respondent wrote. “My mother can’t understand why I don’t visit her. I was not allowed to go in and do her hair or cut her toenails, even though I have done that for the past two decades, yet a stranger was allowed to come and do those services.”

RELATED: B.C. seniors fear loneliness more than COVID-19

RELATED: COVID-19 exposed senior care already in crisis

Another wrote: “I feel I am missing out on the limited time my husband has left. He doesn’t speak, so it is all the more important that he sees me. It’s interesting that the assisted living residents have the freedom to come and go, from the same building and door, with no masks. And yet I can’t get within six feet of my husband. I have asked several times to be considered an essential visitor. I need help.”

Mackenzie says the issue of restricted visits has generated more phone calls and letters to her office than any other in its history. Her recommendations include allowing all long-term care residents to designate and essential care partner, and allow social visitors to determine the number allowed to balance the risk to residents’ health from long-term separation from families.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Last year’s session with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at the Chemainus Legion Hall. (File photo by Don Bodger)
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP want public input

In-person forums not being held this year

Surf scooter at Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Sylvie Newey photo)
Surf’s up!

Surf scoter scours the waters off Chemainus for food

North Cowichan council held its first meeting of 2021 on Jan. 20.
Firearms Discharge Bylaw amendments put on the backburner

Forestry review still needs to be completed before staff makes a recommendation to council

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

(Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
The Pachena Bay shoreline in 2013. (Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
This week in history: 9.0 magnitude quake struck under what is now called Vancouver Island

According to First Nations elders, the 9.0-magnitude quake in 1700 CE kick-started a tsunami

Cash and drugs allegedly found in a suspect’s possession following an arrest earlier this month in downtown Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
Accused drug dealer arrested in Nanaimo carrying $20K, fentanyl, crack and meth

Terrance Virus, 39, being held in custody, scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1

(Pixabay)
B.C. teacher gets 1 day suspension after ‘aggressively’ throwing dumbbell at student

Documents show the weight would have hit the student if they didn’t catch it

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
B.C. ramping up screening for faster-spreading COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’

B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
B.C. teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Most Read