COVID-19: Despite added screening in Alberta senior homes, families fear the worst

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WATCH: While Alberta has enhanced COVID-19 protections in long-term care and supportive living facilities, a growing number of them are in outbreak status. As Jill Croteau reports, many families are worried sick about the mental health of their loved ones as the virus continues to spread – Jan 7, 2022

With the fragile state of seniors in long-term care homes, Linda Laroche is worried.

She said she keeps her cohort small and rarely goes anywhere other than to work and home, so she can safely see her 85-year-old mom Berta at her long-term care home, AgeCare Seton.

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“Her life is in her room, sitting in front of the TV doing embroidery and she needs to have outside contact and stimulation, because you can’t wander the halls and have a conversation with a friend,” Laroche said.

“She’s in her own little world and I don’t want my mom to be like this.”

Linda with her mom, Berta. Courtesy: Linda Laroche

According to the province’s latest data, AgeCare Seton in on the outbreak list, one of more than 40 of Calgary’s long-term care and assisted living facilities in outbreak. That number has nearly tripled compared to statistics released three days ago.

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“We need to kick this because I want to see my mom and take her for a drive and take her to the mall once again, because right now she is not safe,” Laroche said. “I don’t feel safe taking her anywhere and that’s a very bad feeling.”

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There’s added concern with staffing levels at senior homes after reports of hours being reduced.

CUPE Alberta says its members working at Intercare Corporate Group Inc. are having their hours cut and some positions are being eliminated. Over 75 part-time employees and 41 full-time employees working at Chinook Care Centre, Southwood Care Centre and Brentwood Care Centre are losing hours.

CUPE Alberta President, Rory Gill, said that’s unacceptable.

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“Housekeeping, laundry and basic services are getting cut again for elderly and vulnerable people,” Gill said. “It would be a tragedy in the best of circumstances but we have a fifth wave and we are seeing hours being cut in long-term care.”

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The province of Alberta has recently enhanced screening protocols and have on-site testing available for staff, visitors and residents. But despite best efforts, the virus continues to spread.

It’s the very reason Tammy Lever got her mom, Elaine Schinkler, out of AgeCare Skypointe and moved her in with her.

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“Her mental health was bad and I knew she wouldn’t make it, and thought ‘That’s enough’ and pulled her out and haven’t regretted that decision at all,” Lever said.

Her mom tested positive for COVID-19 before they moved her out.

“I was so worried because I knew there was going to be another wave,” Lever said.

Tammy Lever and her mom Elaine Schinkler. Global News

The home she took her out of is also on outbreak status, triggering some tough memories.

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“We were in our room for months and it’s hard mentally, physically. You miss your family; that was very depressing for me,” Schinkler said. “I am happy I am here and not there.”

She’s been living with her daughter since August 2021 and says her mind and body have never been better.

“I haven’t been sick once and my doctor says I’m in perfect health,” Schinkler said.

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