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Mental health concerns rise for seniors as Saskatchewan tightens restrictions in care homes

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WATCH: Some people speaking out about the mental health of their loved ones as Saskatchewan imposes new restrictions in the fight against COVID-19 – Nov 19, 2020

For the past six years, Wendy Fields has visited her mother in a long-term care facility in Regina. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, she says once-frequent visits have now become few and far between.

“After a week when I go there, she says to me, ‘were you away, where have you been?’ The time for her is horrendous,” Fields said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Moe calls additional COVID-19 measures ‘1-month slowdown’ for Saskatchewan

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the Saskatchewan government announced new measures on Tuesday, including the suspension of visits to all long-term care facilities or personal care homes in the province.

However, there are exceptions for compassionate reasons.

“The mental health part I think is really going to take a toll on a lot of these people,” Fields said. “I understand there needs to be a high level of safety there, but I also think there needs to be some compassion.”

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Fields said her mother is confined to a wheelchair and not able to get around on her own. That, combined with poor eyesight and hearing, means she spends most of her days alone in her room. She added that FaceTime is also a challenge.

“I’m concerned about her mental health. I’m concerned with her having to sit in that room, day after day, without any family able to communicate with her,” Fields said.

“That’s where she is all day long, every day. Other than going out for her meals.”

Read more: Regina ‘long hauler’ still struggles with COVID-19 symptoms

While Fields said it’s not the facility that’s the problem, she pointed to the restrictions in place.

“It’s frustrating. You hear about the bars being open and restaurants and bingo halls and gyms and I feel sorry for these people, they are trying to make a living, but I don’t know what the answer is,” Fields said.

“My concern is that there is nothing stopping these care workers from going to the bar or bingo, or whatever and going back to the home. They are able to go in there and do their jobs, yet family is not able to.”

While the government also clamped down on private gatherings, limiting gatherings to five people from 10, it made no changes to public spaces.

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“While we thank the government for these new restrictions, we think more could be done and should be done relatively quickly,” said Dr. Hassan Masri, ICU physician and University of Saskatchewan associate professor.

“We have a bit of work to do in terms of closing places that are linked to a lot of outbreaks like bars, nightclubs, theatres and bingo halls here in Saskatchewan.”

Read more: Saskatchewan doctors say province losing fight with COVID-19

Masri is one of hundreds of doctors calling on the province for more leadership and tougher restrictions.

“All of the things we advocate for go around three things: Number one, we need to save lives and make sure hospitals run; number two, we need to make sure businesses thrive as much as possible; and three, we need to make sure kids go to school,” Masri said.

As for Fields, she is hoping something will change so she can see her mom in person before Christmas.

“I just feel there has to be a better way for these seniors,” Fields said.

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