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 Nov. 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

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)
UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Vernon Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist says while we must use caution while dealing with COVID-19, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP file photo)
BOOMER TALK: Long term care is around the corner

Columnist recounts mother’s stay in local medical facility amid pandemic

Okanagan patients will benefit from the recent inclusion of the Medical Arts Health Research Group in a worldwide study with the National Institute of Health (NIH). The study will be a global collaboration for finding better treatments for COVID-19. (File photo)
Okanagan research group involved with finding better COVID treatments

Okanagan Medical Arts Health Research Group invited to collaborate in global study

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

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

Larch Place is the first building to be built in the BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association housing project at the corner of Third Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. This view is from the Shuswap Street side where it sits behind the Graystone East building. (File photo)
Opening of doors at new housing development in Salmon Arm welcomed

BC Housing announces opening of 32 rental units, with 35 more expected in summer 2021

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

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read