Don’t forget them.
That’s Debra Drew’s painfully simple message about the residents of the seniors’ homes at the epicentre of British Columbia’s novel coronavirus crisis.
Drew’s father, Graham, is a resident of the Lynn Valley Care Centre, a facility which has seen 11 deaths from COVID-19, and where 42 residents and 21 health care workers have been infected.
Graham, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is one of those 42 coronavirus patients.
“We feel that even though our father is 96 years old and many people might think that it isn’t important to assist those seniors in our community, we do not want to see our father die to this virus,” she told Global News through tears.
Drew had sharp words for young people who are defying the province’s social and physical distancing measures, warning “you’re not immortal.”
If people won’t take precautions for themselves, they should take them for their families, she urged.
“They’re people that have contributed to Canada in one way or another, they have had vital lives — they are veterans, in my father’s case,” she said.
“These people cannot be forgotten just because they’re seniors. They need to have this time to be treated with dignity.”
Drew and her sister have been at the facility daily for nearly three weeks tending to her dad, ensuring he’s had enough to eat and is hydrated. She learned he had tested positive last Wednesday.
She said the presence of the family around him helps keep him calm, though he doesn’t completely understand the gravity of the situation.
Drew said she still has concerns about the consistency of staffing and cleaning at the facility.
The province has acknowledged early challenges with effectively staffing the home, but says Vancouver Coastal Health has implemented strict infection controls and is doing its best.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said 22 nurses had volunteered to go and work at the facility since the outbreak was declared.
The Lynn Valley Care Centre is just one of nine B.C. seniors’ homes facing an outbreak of COVID-19.
Most have small case counts, but it has been enough to prompt strict new measures in the province barring almost all visitors.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is also drafting an order that would bar staff from working at more than one seniors’ facility.
At the Haro Park Centre in Vancouver, where 28 residents and 27 staff have been infected, Samantha Monckton spent Wednesday morning playing the trumpet for her 78-year-old father Garry.
Strict isolation measures mean Monckton had to play from the street, while her dad listened from a balcony above.
“He’s familiar with that sound. Apparently I did fine, he said. Fine is pretty high praise for my dad,” she quipped.
Garry, who suffers from dementia, is also blind.
Monckton said using sound — she played ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon,’ a song they used to sing together — was a way to stay connected, even if they can’t be together.
“It was definitely something he remembers singing to me, so I wanted to bring it to him,” she said.
Garry has also been diagnosed with COVID-19, and has now been strictly isolated inside the facility.
Even though she can’t go inside, Monckton said she has faith the staff inside are taking care of Garry, describing them as “like family.”
But like Drew, Monckton had a message for the public when it comes to protecting our elders during the pandemic — and after.
“The way you treat the old people is going to be the way you’re treated when you’re old,” she said.
“Everybody has the right to live.”
-With files from Sarah MacDonald
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