Calgary end-of-life organizations navigate restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Families navigate loved ones’ last wishes during COVID-19 pandemic'
Families navigate loved ones’ last wishes during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: With social distancing restrictions in place, grieving Alberta families are trying to honour their loved ones’ last wishes. As Tracy Nagai reports, some organizations have made significant changes to help those dealing with loss. – May 1, 2020

Grieving families are grappling with how to honour their loved ones’ last wishes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s certainly an emotional roller coaster as anyone can imagine,” Ursula Serpico said. “Not just for my family but for the families out there.”

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw hopes new end-of-life visitation rules will allow for planning'
Hinshaw hopes new end-of-life visitation rules will allow for planning

Serpico’s mother, Lucia, was admitted to Calgary’s Rosedale Hospice more than a month ago and since then, there have been drastic changes.

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Under provincial regulations, hospices are closed to the public and at the Rosedale Hospice only one person is allowed to visit at a time.

“Before, we were all able to gather around her and make her feel safe,” Serpico said. “We understand why there are so many restrictions in place.”

There is also a COVID-19 self-assessment screening tool for people who are entering the building and there are other social distancing measures in place.

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“The visits are limited to the patients’ bedrooms,” Fiona McColl with Hospice Calgary said. “We have beautiful common spaces in the house but unfortunately visits have to happen in patient bedrooms.”

Ursula Serpico’s mother Lucia. Lucia was admitted to the Rosedale Hospice more than a month ago.

Other organizations are also grappling with how to support families with COVID-19 restrictions still in place.

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Despite the province’s relaunch strategy announced on Thursday, still, no more than 15 people are allowed to gather in groups and people must remain at least two meters apart.

“We had lots of emergency planning already set up but we never thought it would go to his extent,” Jeff Hagel, president of McInnis and Holloway Funeral Homes, said.

Hagel said McInnis and Holloway has modified some of its procedures to still allow families to hold services.

“When a family has more than 15 people we work with them to provide a rotating visitation,” he said. “Where they would schedule a time between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. maybe now it’s between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.”

Hagel said the funeral home is also broadcasting services over the radio.

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“Families also have the option to have a video screen to be set up outdoors for those who are in attendance to watch.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta updates end-of-life visitation rules during COVID-19 pandemic'
Alberta updates end-of-life visitation rules during COVID-19 pandemic

Serpico said she has discussed her mother’s last wishes with her family and although it seems unimaginable, they have a plan in place.

“We’re going to, as a family, follow the guidelines that are provided to us by the funeral home,” Serpico said. “I think it’s a learning experience for all of us.”

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