Rena Phillips visits her husband Frank at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary March 31, 2020. Patient visits have been restricted to essential only in the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)

Rena Phillips visits her husband Frank at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary March 31, 2020. Patient visits have been restricted to essential only in the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)

B.C. seniors worry more about death from loneliness than COVID-19

More visits allowed than most people think under pandemic restrictions

Seniors in B.C. long-term care and assisted living facilities are seeing reduced visits and missing out on the volunteer care as well as the companionship they provide, a new survey by B.C.’s Seniors Advocate has found.

All non-essential visits were stopped in March after outbreaks in senior homes began occurring, and effective June 28, one “social” visitor was allowed in addition to essential visits. A survey of 13,000 people from all B.C. health regions through August and September found a significant drop in frequency and duration of visits, and widespread misunderstanding of public health rules relating to visitors.

The results show that more care home residents and relatives are concerned about dying of loneliness than from COVID-19, Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said in the report, released Nov. 3

“When the visit restrictions were amended at the end of June, many family members thought they would once again take up their role as a vital care partner for their loved one,” Mackenzie said in the report. “However, two months after visit restrictions were relaxed, the survey found the majority of current visits are only once per week or less and many of these visits are 30 minutes or less, Prior to the pandemic, most family members were visiting several times a week or daily for much longer periods of time.”

The survey results suggest “essential” visits have been too strictly interpreted by care home staff and frequent visitors. The report says essential visits have been defined by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, in addition to the designated “social” visitor. Essential visits “can include, but are not limited to” assistance with feeding, mobility, personal care, communication, and “compassionate care including critical illness, palliative care, hospice care, end of life and medical assistance in dying.”

Decisions on who qualifies as an essential visitor were left to individual care homes to determine. Of the 13,000 survey respondents, 14 per cent said they were essential visitors. Fewer than half (48 per cent) of respondents were made aware of the potential for essential visits, only 42 per cent of respondents applied or had another family member apply for essential visits, and almost half (45 per cent) of the essential visit applications were denied.

RELATED: COVID-19 exposed senior care already in crisis

RELATED: Senior home residents organize to oppose restrictions

“When we started visit restrictions, the goal was to ensure residents in long-term care and assisted living were kept safe from COVID-19,” Mackenzie said. “Eight months later, we need to ask the question: What are we keeping them safe for if it is not to enjoy the time they have left with the ones they love?”

Mackenzie makes three recommendations:

• Allow all residents to designate an essential care partner

• Allow social visitors to determine the number allowed by balancing the risk to a resident’s health from the long-term family separations

• Create a provincial association of long-term care and assisted living residents and family councils.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusSeniors

Just Posted

These Douglas fir logs were found poached in April on Stoney Hill in North Cowichan’s forest reserve. (Larry Pynn/sixmountains.ca)
Fines in forest reserve could increase significantly after illegal logging

North Cowichan considering fines of up to $50,000

North Cowichan’s senior environment specialist Dr. Dave Preikshot (pictured) said there’s a wide spectrum of views on carbon credits. (File photo)
Carbon credits expected to be part of discussions around forest reserve

North Cowichan acknowledges wide range of views on issue

Letters to the Editor.
Snipes prank not worth celebrating

Is another form of bullying deserving of a bronze statue?

Letters to the editor.
Money the B.C. government’s priority over health

Case numbers of COVID-19 don’t seem to back up opening the economy

Police have been kept busy dealing with a crime spree throughout the pandemic in North Cowichan/Duncan and elsewhere. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Worrisome time amid a pandemic

Huge drain on finances, rising criminal activity among the concerns

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

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

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read