B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie describes the findings of her survey of long-term care and assisted living residents under pandemic restrictions, B.C. legislature, Nov. 3, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie describes the findings of her survey of long-term care and assisted living residents under pandemic restrictions, B.C. legislature, Nov. 3, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. seniors suffer from isolation, depression in COVID-19

Care home visit restrictions go beyond public health orders

B.C. seniors are showing medical as well as emotional effects from isolation in long-term care homes, including an increased use of anti-psychotic medications.

An extensive survey of care home and assisted living residents by B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie heard tragic stories of the effects of strict visitor restrictions, where relatives who had helped seniors with meals, hair brushing and other essential personal assistance were told to keep their distance, shorten visits, or not visit at all.

“Many residents are despondent as the only thing they look forward to is receiving a visit from their family,” Mackenzie wrote in her latest report, released Oct. 3. “There are also early warning signs of measurable health impacts. After many recent years of stability, the rate of antipsychotic use for residents in long-term care has increased seven per cent during this pandemic and initial reports from the quarterly assessments show troubling trends of unintended weight loss and worsening of mood among long-term care residents.”

A quarter of long-term care residents die each year, and end-of-life visitation was affected as well as day-to-day help. More than eight out of 10 respondents indicated that before the pandemic, their loved one had additional people such as paid companions, physical therapists or hairdressers to help them. Personal care services are considered essential by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with assistance in feeding, mobility and communication, such as using a phone.

Visits were restricted to essential only in March after COVID-19 transmission began in care facilities, and on June 28 one “social” visitor was allowed. The report found that most care home operators went beyond the public health orders in restricting visits to a single person. The report included some personal descriptions of the results of separation for up to six months. One resident said her sister became the designated visitor for their 98-year-old mother, meaning she couldn’t visit and her sister had to provide what both had shared.

“I have asked if we could alternate monthly, one month my sister, the next month me; however this was refused,” the respondent wrote. “My mother can’t understand why I don’t visit her. I was not allowed to go in and do her hair or cut her toenails, even though I have done that for the past two decades, yet a stranger was allowed to come and do those services.”

RELATED: B.C. seniors fear loneliness more than COVID-19

RELATED: COVID-19 exposed senior care already in crisis

Another wrote: “I feel I am missing out on the limited time my husband has left. He doesn’t speak, so it is all the more important that he sees me. It’s interesting that the assisted living residents have the freedom to come and go, from the same building and door, with no masks. And yet I can’t get within six feet of my husband. I have asked several times to be considered an essential visitor. I need help.”

Mackenzie says the issue of restricted visits has generated more phone calls and letters to her office than any other in its history. Her recommendations include allowing all long-term care residents to designate and essential care partner, and allow social visitors to determine the number allowed to balance the risk to residents’ health from long-term separation from families.


@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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor recieves prestigeous conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor receives prestigious conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Most Read