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

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

Just Posted

Members of the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP paid tribute Saturday to Const. Marc Hovingh of the Ontario Provincial Police, who was killed in a shooting Nov. 19, 2020. (RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP honours fallen Ontario police officer

Const. Marc Hovingh was killed in a shooting on Manitoulin Island, Ont. on Nov. 19

The Armstrong Green Space Society is calling for the preservation of the Royal York Golf Course, which may be in jeopardy pending an application to use the land for a major housing development. (File photo)
Armstrong group calls on council to spare local golf course from housing development

The Armstrong Green Space Society was formed in 2019 after word of the development surfaced

Vicki Proulx, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, stands beneath a lights display the society lit up in Spirit Square Nov. 27, by way of announcing it will be taking over the 2021 downtown light-up event. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival Society lights up downtown square

The society announced it will be taking over next year’s downtown light-up event

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at Armstrong Elementary School prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

A former Nanaimo investment advisor is accused of lying under oath to the B.C. Securities Commission. (Black Press file)
Vernon budget opens for public input

Draft financial plan includes 4.47% tax increase for 2021

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP issue warning after woman assaulted while walking in Kelowna

On Saturday, the unknown man ran up and grabbed her in an inappropriate manner before fleeing

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A West Cabs driver is being investigated for an incident which allegedly took place this week. (West Cabs)
West Kelowna cab driver under investigation after altercation over his lack of mask

Passenger alleges cab driver became confrontational when asked about wearing mask

Supt. Brian Hunter will be presenting first quarter RCMP stats to Penticton city council, tomorrow (April 21). (Phil McLachlan - Western News - File)
South Okanagan RCMP superintendent wants to set up dedicated prolific offender task force

Supt. Brian Hunter plans to use the additional officers city council approved for the force

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

(Pixabay)
‘We need to be empathetic’; Kelowna support worker speaks out after disabled individual denied haircut

Individual with severe autism denied service at a Kelowna hair salon for not wearing mask

The Interior Wildfire Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10-15 acres to house a rehab centre for injured and orphaned wildlife like deer and moose calves. (Black Press file photo)
Okanagan group look for property to house wildlife rehab centre

The Interior Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10 acres for injured/orphaned animals

Most Read