After a two-month forced separation, Dr. Thérèse Perreault was finally granted access to visit her ailing mother at the CHSLD Saint-Henri on Monday.
She was allowed in after Premier François Legault eased restrictions on visits by caregivers to seniors’ homes last week.
“I would say it was very emotional. I was very happy to see her, she was happy to see me, but of course, it has many feelings,” Perreault said outside the home on Rue Notre-Dame.
Perreault’s mother, Gisèle Lemire, moved into the home in early March, just before the coronavirus crisis hit. She is 91 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and Perreault had been visiting her daily, helping to care for her.
When visits to seniors’ residences were banned mid-March, Perreault offered her services to help not just her mother but the entire ward. Perreault is a pediatric intensive care specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Her offers of help were always denied. The separation from her mother was painful.
“We cannot be excluded, we are just like the health-care workers,” she said. “We need to support caregivers and to be able to encourage the rest of the population to be caregivers, too.”
Perreault says the rules surrounding visits to the home are strict. She is allowed to visit for four hours a day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Visitors must don full personal protective equipment (PPE), they have to wash their hands frequently, and she can’t leave her mother’s room, even to go to the bathroom.
“At first when I was wearing the PPE, I came in with a mask, and I had to kind of pull my mask down so she could see the bottom of my face and then she saw it was me, she was very happy,” Perreault said.
Perreault says the care her mother received at the home was very good. She says she was well taken care of, and there were only a handful of COVID-19 cases at the CHSLD.
But she says the personal connection was missing. The mother and daughter have now settled into their old routine — doing puzzles and art, singing and playing games.
“It gives them a purpose for life. Basically, that is what it is. Why would they live if they have no loved ones?” Perreault said.
Experts who work in the caregiving field applaud the move to allow caregivers back into seniors’ residences.
“It kind of unburdens the health system, which is already clogged up as it is,” said Josée Côté of the Regroupement Des Aidants Naturels Du Quebec, an umbrella caregiving group.
Côté says at least eight CHSLDs have registered with the government to deny access to caregivers. But she says across the board, her group is hearing of cases where caregivers aren’t allowed to visit their loved ones.
“We have been inundated with calls from caregivers who were turned at the gate, who could not access the residence, so that has been a bit of an issue,” Côté said.
As for Perreault, she feels at peace now that she can hold her mother again. Despite the Alzheimer’s, their bond is strong. It’s one Perreault hopes is never broken again.View link »