Families want to relax visitor rules in highly vaccinated Ontario long-term care homes

Toronto-Esther Hladkowicz is eager for a proper visit with her father.

Since September, she has been waving to him in front of the window of the Ottawa Long-Term Care Home. She said that since he has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, his daily work has become more and more painful.

Hladkowicz said the father with Alzheimer’s will point to the yard and ask her and her daughter to walk outside when they get off the car on a sunny day.

She said: “We have 15 or 20 minutes to visit, basically just telling him why we can’t do this.” “It’s cruel.”

Families and advocates are calling on the Ontario government to relax regulations on long-term care residents’ visits, because most people have been fully vaccinated against the virus, which has killed thousands of nursing homes in the early stages of the pandemic.

As of last Friday, the province reported that 96% of long-term residents had been fully vaccinated with antiviral vaccines, and 87% of staff had received a dose. Since this winter’s vaccine campaign prioritized the sector, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the facility has decreased significantly.

Now, relatives argue that overly cautious policies prevent them from visiting relatives outdoors with their lonely relatives, who have been struggling in loneliness for more than a year.

Hradekovic said: “It is very important now, because time is too long.” “You can see its negligence and isolation.”

Last month, a committee investigated the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes in Ontario, and the committee issued a report calling for comprehensive reforms of its so-called neglected sector. It found that the mental health consequences of the pandemic restrictions on residents are similar to those faced by prisoners in solitary confinement.

A few days later, the Long-Term Care Department announced that some social interactions, such as communal meals, might resume, and caregivers who received adequate vaccinations could hug residents.

Residents who are temporarily absent from work due to social reasons are still prohibited from outings, and visits by families of unofficial caregivers are also prohibited.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that after the province’s home ban (recently extended to June 2) is lifted, “further instructions” will be issued to allow fully vaccinated residents to participate in social activities.

But advocates believe that the policy needs to be reconsidered now.

Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor specializing in home care at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, said that the recent changes in the regulations following the severe report of the Long-term Care Committee constitute a public relations revolution.

Stamatopoulos believes that there has been little change in tourist policy since last fall, despite the high vaccination rate and safe outdoor visits. Experts agree that if proper distancing precautions are taken, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is much lower.

Stamatopoulos said: “At this point, it’s ridiculous.”

She said the delay in updating the policy has prolonged the burden of some qualified family members who are eligible to be caregivers and are allowed to enter the house. It has also prolonged the suffering of residents who have been separated from their loved ones for a year.

She said: “It is cruel to not let them down, but actually spend a little time with relatives, grandchildren, nieces and nephews,” she said.

Hladkowicz said she has observed that her father’s long-term care during the pandemic has declined, and her family is not sure whether he was taken outdoors. She hopes to change the policy to allow more relatives to visit, and hope that the number of basic caregivers for one resident will increase from two.

Due to the constant trickling of staff, other families have been trying to get their relatives out of the facility that is still under the outbreak agreement.

Jennifer Couperthwaite’s grandmother lives in a government-funded facility in the York area that has been experiencing an outbreak since March, mainly due to COVID-19 cases among employees. There are no boxes on her grandmother’s floor, but Couperthwaite said she still can’t go outdoors.

Couperthwaite took her young son to wave to his great-grandmother from the window on the second floor. Otherwise, she can only make virtual calls, and Coupeththwaite said it is difficult to see her grandmother go downhill.

She said: “We are losing her, it is difficult to accept this.” “By now we could have reunited with her.”

Couperthwaite wants to see policies reflect the high vaccination rate among residents. Before that, she said she had been dreaming of the day when she could sit outside and have lunch with her grandmother and chat in the afternoon.

She said: “Even if you just sit six feet apart and give her a cup of tea. I just want that, nothing.” “I just hope it doesn’t go through the plexiglass or window.”

The Canadian News Agency report was first published on May 16, 2021.

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