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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Voting day for the upcoming Central Okanagan Board of Education by-election is June 26. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

Kelowna voters will go the polls to fill vacant Kelowna trustee seat

Two bikes that were stolen after a West Kelowna parking garage was looted on April 3. Photo: Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan
Parking garage looted in West Kelowna

A car was broken into and six storage lockers were ransacked

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

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

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read