Daughter says elderly mother has 'severely declined' since COVID-19 visitation limits were put in place

Elderly feeling abandoned

A Merritt woman is saying she has seen her mother severely decline from the lack of social visits — and fears for her emotional well-being.

It comes after pandemic restrictions have limited visitation times in care homes for the health and safety of the seniors.  

Darlene Lewis says her mom, who resides at a care home in Kamloops, has felt heartbroken, lonely and abandoned since March. She shared a video with Castanet, showing her mother’s reaction every time their short, 30-minute visit comes to an end. There are always tears, Lewis says.

"How do I provide therapy to my mom, for her memory and to calm her down emotionally, in half an hour? You start to bring something out and then they tell you it’s time to leave," she says.

Lewis has sent countless emails to the care home and Interior Health, requesting more time. Both organizations say they are following government orders. The Office of the Seniors Advocate of British Columbia advised her to apply to become a designated essential visitor, but it only got her an extra half an hour a week, bringing her visitation time to one hour.

Sixty minutes a week is not nearly enough time for her to have a proper visit, Lewis says.

When reached by Castanet, the Ministry of Health provided the following statement:

“Each long-term care facility in B.C. has submitted an approved care and safety plan for visitation to their local health authority. Dr. (Bonnie) Henry has spoken about the challenges and the balances that need to be weighed when it comes to visits in long-term care homes.”

The ministry then referenced Henry's latest comment made during Monday’s press availability, where she stated: “This is, of course, a very challenging issue that we've been working on for some time. We do have guidance, it is being updated and revised. As you know, part of the challenge is having sufficient staff to support visits. And in all of our long-term care homes we have, as you know, defined essential visitors and who can be indicated as an essential visitor and we want very much to increase the numbers of people that an individual can have visiting them. I think we need to be cautious again."

Henry continued: "We've seen in Quebec and Ontario, in particular, that they did expand quite a lot and they're now starting to see larger outbreaks in their care homes. It is a very challenging thing for us to find that balance. We will continue to modify and look at how we can support families to be with their loved ones in care homes. I appreciate how challenging it is right now.”

Despite Henry's compassion, Lewis says something needs to change. Through tears, she urges the government to give families like hers a chance to care for their loved ones. More time will also offer relief to care staff, who are likely to burn out, Lewis says.

"Help us save our family members because loneliness, abandonment will take them way before COVID ever will."

The provincial seniors advocate is running a survey to learn more about how visitation restrictions have impacted residents. British Columbians have until midnight tonight to take the poll. Click here to fill out the questionnaire.

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