After delay, family caregivers allowed to enter hard-hit West Island seniors’ home

Click to play video: 'West Island woman finally granted permission to visit mother in long-term care home' West Island woman finally granted permission to visit mother in long-term care home
Karen Squires has been fighting for weeks to act as a caregiver to her 90-year-old mother who lives in a long-term care home. On Monday, Squires was able to see and touch her mother for the first time in months. Global's Dan Spector has more on this family's reunion – May 19, 2020

Most Quebec seniors’ homes finally started allowing family members inside to act as caregivers on May 11, but at Vigi Dollard-des-Ormeaux, the COVID-19 situation was still not stable enough to let people in.

One week late, family caregivers at the site are now finally with their loved ones in person.

“I was anxious and nervous at the same time,” said Karen Squires, who has been fighting to go into Vigi DDO to care for her 90-year-old mother for over a month.

“Once you’re in there, it’s like they they took all the precautions. I felt very safe. I felt very safe.”

Monday was Squires’ first official day as a family caregiver at the embattled home. Along with over half of Vigi DDO’s residents, her mother contracted COVID-19.  It was one of the worst hit in the province, and was not ready to permit caregivers along with the rest of Quebec last week.

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READ MORE: West Island seniors’ residence, health authorities not ready for family caregivers’ help

“It felt good, but I also felt sad because she did change. You know, she’s not the same as she was before,” Squires told Global News.

Last Thursday, Squires underwent a training session at a hotel in the West Island. She says she had to fight the West Island CIUSSS to be tested for COVID-19 before going in to volunteer.

“A spokesperson for Vigi was there at the course, and she she fought for it and she got it,” Squires claims.

Once inside the residence, Squires was escorted directly to her mom’s room.

“You’re not allowed to go anywhere, like down the halls because, you know, they have the red zones, so we’re careful,” she said.

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Squires suited up in full protective gear to begin her four-hour shift. She plans to go in every day for at least seven days straight.

“I fed my mom. She had soup, she had a meal, she had four glasses of liquids while I was there,” Squires explained, saying it took her an hour to properly feed her mother.

She has accused Vigi of reacting too slowly to the pandemic. Dozens of staff got COVID-19 and were forced to stay home.  She feels her mother has lost some mental capacity, and is a lot thinner than before.

“I think she lost a lot of weight because she wasn’t getting fed,” Squires told Global News.

READ MORE: ‘The virus is still there,’ Legault says as Quebec sees lowest coronavirus case increase since April

Vigi Santé, who owns and operates the care home, tells Global News 67 people have died of COVID-19 at Vigi DDO since the beginning of the pandemic.

When things were at their worst, there were teams from the Red Cross and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) on site providing support, but things now seem to have stabilized.

“It’s really going good now, finally,” said Squires

Almost all outside help is now gone. Just two CIUSSS managers remain.

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“Since the situation has been stabilized and that Vigi DDO health-care staff is beginning to reintegrate the CHSLD following their isolation, the MUHC, the Red Cross and the CIUSSS teams have now left,” said Guillaume Bérubé of the West Island CIUSSS, the regional health authority.


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