Family caregivers unable to visit loved ones in extended care or assisted living residences during the COVID-19 pandemic have lacked an important connection.
Barb MacLean, executive director with Family Caregivers of B.C., says the Phase 3 reopening of such facilities for limited visitations in Greater Victoria and around B.C. was important, and not just for residents’ emotional well-being. It’s a step toward re-establishing the direct care connection for residents whose family members or friends provided significant care oversight.
“They’re not just friendly visitors simply having a cup of tea or a social visit, they’re health monitoring, they’re intervening. That caregiver’s role remains,” she says.
A family caregiver’s ability to track a loved one’s daily ability to function and remain at the best possible health, especially toward the end of life, is crucial, MacLean says. “It relies on the family being there and noticing what their wants and needs are. Being a partner in care is really important and it’s not getting a lot of discussion.”
Family or friends are often the people asking how dad’s dentures are fitting, or whether mom is comfortable in her easy chair, she adds.
While strict provincial health and safety rules are in place to prevent spreading of the virus, especially in facilities filled with at-risk residents, some family members may not feel comfortable returning for an in-person visit, MacLean says.
That’s why Family Caregivers of BC and SafeCare BC teamed up on an online, self-paced course called COVID-19: Social Visitation Essentials. Launched July 22, it’s designed to give participants an introduction to COVID-19, give details on where to find current and reliable information about the virus, and provide instructions on slowing transmission of COVID-19, including proper handwashing and mask wearing techniques.
“As we move forward, we need to break down the barrier of fear and give confidence to people who are a partner in care, and do that in a safe way,” MacLean says.
While those who complete the online course – it’s free for the first 5,000 users – receive a certificate to present to the care facility demonstrating awareness of health and safety practices, visitors must also abide by specific safety rules in place at individual residences.
A Family Caregivers of B.C. support line, where people can find help transitioning the elders in their life to a new living situation, among other things, is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1-877-520-3267.
For information about other support programs, or to register for the online course, visit familycaregiversbc.ca.