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

Snowfall warnings Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 for parts of the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon. (Jennifer Feinberg/The Chilliwack Progress)
Winter storm warnings Thursday for Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon

Snow is expected to become heavier as day progresses with snowfall amounts of up to 30 centimetres

A team with Ann Davis Transition Society takes part in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser as they walk along Young Road on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
‘Coldest Night’ walk raises nearly $60,000 for new outreach office in Chilliwack

Ann Davis Transition Society thrift shop will be transformed into much needed outreach centre

Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford has partnered with the online platform REES (Respect, Educate Empower Survivors) for the reporting of sexual violence.
Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford partners with website to report sexual violence

Platform offers increased options for staff and students to report misconduct

The University of the Fraser Valley Peace and Reconciliation Centre
UFV students hold online forum on peace and reconciliation

Two online sessions on Feb. 25 include student research

A new Fraser Valley food hub in Abbotsford will include shared kitchen space that can be accessed by small and medium-sized businesses. (Stock photo by Robyn Wright from Pixabay)
Almost $2M to support new Fraser Valley food hub in Abbotsford

Project being developed by District of Mission and Mission Community Skills Centre

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

A woman boards a transit bus through rear doors, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
TransLink slow to reveal crucial details about ransomware attack, says union

Union says company took months to admit what info was stolen, including SIN and bank account details

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

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

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read