As Manitoba gets ready to lift nearly all COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and a months-long indoor mask mandate, care home residents are still left living under tight restrictions despite being fully vaccinated.
Patty Letourneau’s mom, Helen Schroeder, struggles with dementia and has been living in a Niverville care home since 2019.
Despite driving in every week from Kenora, Ont., to be able to have a short visit with Schroeder, they are still not allowed to leave the care home grounds.
“Everyone else got the freedoms that came with being vaccinated. (Those in care homes) got no reward, they got no freedom. They got nothing extra that everyone else in Manitoba got,” said Letourneau.
Letourneau has done everything she can to make sure her mom has been safe from the virus, she said. They both wear masks and Letourneau dons personal protective equipment during their visits.
Both are also fully vaccinated.
“We used to be able to take her for a drive. We’d go for a drive in the country and she would read all the road signs, all the highway signs. She would just look at everything and she was so happy,” Letourneau said.
“Then drives weren’t allowed and now outings of any kind aren’t allowed. She can’t leave the home.
“And so once you can’t leave where you live, it starts to feel like a prison.”
Letourneau said she hoped the upcoming easing of restrictions would also bring more freedoms back to her mom.
“If you’re anyone living at a personal care home, you don’t have the same freedom as everyone else in Manitoba and that’s unfair,” she said.
“That feels discriminatory and it’s time for them to get some joy. They have suffered more than anybody.”
Throughout the pandemic, care home residents have lived under tight restrictions to stop outbreaks and ensure their safety.
The last loosening of restrictions for care homes came on June 18 and included allowing general visitors, not just essential or designated family caregivers, to be able to go to personal care homes as long as they showed proof they were fully vaccinated from COVID-19. General visitors are family or friends who visit for social reasons, not to look after the resident.
The visitation guidelines allow up to two fully vaccinated visitors in a resident’s suite and outdoor visits with up to four fully vaccinated visitors. An outdoor visit can only be on the care home’s property.
A spokesperson for Shared Health said it continues to review current guidelines and that health-care facilities continue to follow guidance developed by infection prevention and control experts.
“Our focus remains on protecting residents and patients, many of whom are more vulnerable to severe outcomes if exposed to and infected with COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.
They also added that in some instances a resident may be able to apply and receive a day pass.
“(It’s) subject to restrictions that vary based on the vaccination status of both the resident and the family caregiver. It is recommended that residents minimize exposure,” they said.
For Letourneau, it’s time to make broader changes.
Manitoba is recording its lowest COVID-19 case counts in months, test positivity rates are decreasing and 80 per cent of Manitobans 12 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, while more than 71 per cent are fully vaccinated.
“If it’s not opening up to them now under these conditions, when will it open for them? When do they get back to some joy?
“Some of those people don’t have a lot of time left.”