Public health has given permission for long-term care facilities to start allowing residents to visit with friends and family starting Monday.
Northwood, the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Nova Scotia, will be among those allowing outdoor visits.
The facility has been COVID-19 free since Wednesday, and hasn’t had a new case since May 28. On Monday they will be scheduling eight visits, with plans to slowly increase that over time.
“There will be Strict guidelines to ensure safety of residences their families and the general community,” said Janet Simm, CEO of Northwood.
Those guidelines include:
- Only allowing two visitors per resident for a maximum of 30 mins
- Maximum of 3 residents and families visiting at one time to allow for physical distancing
- Visitors must wear masks and remain 2 metres from residents
- Visits must be scheduled in advance
- Visitors will be screened before the visit and have their temperature taken
- Visitors must disinfect their hands before and after the visit
Simm says that families will be contacted to make an appointment, and they will be allowing visits seven days a week.
Renee Field hasn’t seen her mother since March and says she’s disappointed at the limits imposed.
“After all these months I can’t hug my mother. Why? She’s recovered so why can’t she leave the facility?”
She’s also concerned that 30 minutes probably once a week just isn’t enough. Prior to COVID her sisters and her would split their time so that someone was visiting their mother almost daily. While it was partly social, it was also to ensure she was getting proper care.
“We were really hands on, making sure her place was tidy, making sure she was wearing clean clothing because if we weren’t popping it it was very obvious the staff didn’t have time to deal with that.”
Dr. Samir Sinha, the director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai in Toronto, says the pandemic has highlighted how important a role families play in caring for their loved ones in long-term care facilities.
“Many people, when we stopped non essential visits, were saying visits from family that we may have characterized as purely social in nature are anything but.”
Sinha says as funding for long-term care facilities has decreased across the country in recent years, family members have been there to pick up the slack.
“I think now that we’re saying lets allow families to come visit once a week for maybe 30 minutes at most I think we’re missing the point.”
While Field worries that 30 minutes won’t be enough to ensure her mother is getting proper care, she is also concerned that the unpredictable weather in Halifax could limit that even more.
“So for today, like a day like today where it’s misting, would my appointment get cancelled? Would I be bumped to the back of the line?”
New Brunswickers can now visit family in long-term care from a distance
Northwood officials say right now they’re just following the public health guidelines and will not be able to offer any form of indoor visits until approved by public health, something Dr. Sinha says the province should consider.
He says while keeping people safe and limiting any possible spread of COVID-19 is important, the lack of proper care or socialization can also have negative impacts on residents.
He points to Quebec where they are seeing success allowing families inside to actually take part in caring for family members in long-term care facilities as long as they follow all the same infection prevention protocols required by staff.
“They’ve shown that when you treat family visitors with respect and acknowledge the vistis are not just purely social, but they are helpful and more helpful than 30 minutes a week, that’s when you find the right balance.”
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