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

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

Police say missing man Daniel Fortin, 55, is high-risk. (Courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: Daniel Fortin, 55, last seen in Victoria March 1

Anyone who sees Fortin asked to call 911

Walkers ascend Mount Douglas Park on Sunday, Feb. 7. Visits to Saanich Parks are up 46 per cent compared to pre-pandemic statistics this time last year. (Darrell Wick Photo)
Oak Bay, Saanich parks peak in popularity during pandemic

Oak Bay spent an extra $5,000 on park toilet paper in 2020

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Chelsea Harry was last seen Feb. 21. Photo via Comox Valley RCMP
Vancouver Island RCMP seeking help locating a missing woman

Missing person last seen in Courtenay on Feb. 21

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Most Read