Alberta seniors’ care centre COVID-19 restrictions isolate some families

Click to play video: 'Families separated amid stricter COVID-19 measures at Alberta seniors’ homes'
Families separated amid stricter COVID-19 measures at Alberta seniors’ homes
WATCH: Increased restrictions at Alberta seniors' homes have taken their toll on many families. As Adam MacVicar reports, some say it’s a small sacrifice for safety. – Mar 21, 2020

Stricter COVID-19 measures undertaken at seniors’ homes across Alberta have taken their toll on several families in the province.

On Friday, the province announced new measures impacting long-term care, supportive living and congregate living settings, limiting visitations to only one essential visitor.

According to Alberta Health Services, essential visitors are family, friends or paid companions that provide necessary care for the well-being of the resident as well as visitors attending to a resident who is dying.

The restrictions also state that visitors must be verified and undergo a health screening, which includes a temperature check or a questionnaire before entering the facility.

Those not allowed to visit the facilities include children, people who are ill, people who are immuno-compromised or anyone in self-isolation, being tested or who has tested positive for COVID-19.

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“These measures, while necessary to protect our seniors and staff, will be extremely difficult for residents of seniors’ facilities,” a notice from AHS said. “We therefore encourage Albertans to look for other ways to reach out to their loved ones, particularly those seniors who live alone. Even spending just a few minutes on the phone with a senior can go a long way toward reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

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The restrictions have been difficult for Martha Farrell, whose husband of nearly 67 years has been living in a senior care facility since early last year.

Farrell’s husband was diagnosed with dementia, which has created complications with his speech.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Farrell said she would spend the entire day with her husband, including making him breakfast, feeding him, taking him for walks and tucking him in at night.

“I tuck him in, and I always hug him and give him a kiss,” Farrell said.

She only found out about the lockdown at senior care centres this week when she made her way to the facility for her daily visit with her husband.

“The both of us are together. He is just going to fall apart with me not being there. I don’t know if he’ll allow anyone to feed him,” she said. “What’s going through his mind — he can’t see me. I wonder what’s going through his mind.”

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Increased restrictions at Alberta seniors’ homes have taken their toll on many families.

Janice Minchin is also having a difficult time with the new restrictions.

Minchin’s mother lives in a care facility in northwest Calgary and she typically visits her twice a week.

“At first, I was really sad and kind of taken aback, and then I was really impressed and happy and felt relieved because then I thought, ‘At least she’s going to be safe,'” Michin said.

Michin’s mother, who is originally from Saskatchewan, worked in nursing roles throughout her life, with a stint in Toronto where she made ordinance during the Second World War.

She turns 103 on Monday, leaving Minchin heartbroken that she won’t be able to visit.

“We won’t be able to celebrate with her on Monday but we’ll have a big party when this is all done,” Michin said. “It is really hard but it’s really, really important that all those residents stay safe.”

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Minchin said she still drops off and picks up her mother’s laundry weekly, and leaves a note for her each time. She said the family also calls her regularly.

“We’ve talked to her about it and she said, ‘Oh, so it’s a sickness,’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Well, it’s good that they stay home,'” Minchin said.

Ultimately, Minchin said the new restrictions are necessary despite the strain her family has been experiencing.

“It’s a very small sacrifice for us to not be able to go see mom when it means that so many other people are safe,” she said.

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