October 20th, 2020

COVID restrictions hurting people in care facilities


By Letter to the Editor on July 8, 2020.

On March 18 I sat with my husband in the Great Room of St. Michael’s Long Term Care. We ate pizza and drank Diet Pepsi and talked about how and what to plant in the garden this year.

On March 19 when I returned for my daily visit I was refused entry into the facility. Several phone calls later I was sitting in my car crying my eyes out because I was told I was denied entry to visit my husband.

In the late afternoon of May 20 I was finally allowed into the facility to my husband’s room. I was shocked at the state that he was in! He was almost comatose. There was no sign of recognition in his eyes, he was non-responsive and non-verbal. I cannot put into words the feelings and emotions of the next two days.

On May 22 my husband passed away. My husband died because he gave up on life. He did not understand the COVID restrictions, he just felt he had been deserted.

Where is the care and compassion of people in these facilities?

Why was I not informed about his condition sooner?

I should have been allowed into that facility when he still had a chance to live. I believe he would still be alive today if I had been allowed in to visit him sooner than I was.

Something has to be done about people in care facilities failing and dying because of these restrictions.

Shirley Olsen

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Lethrez

Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your husband. No words will bring you comfort for his loss.

For what it’s worth I do want to let you know, as someone who works in a seniors’ facility/lodge, that we do care. We care a lot. It has been extremely hard to see residents and families have to be disconnected by COVID-19, all in the name of keeping them safe and healthy. We see, and feel, the upset, frustration, sadness, and loneliness that residents and their families have experienced. We have been on the receiving end of anger by families because of our obligation to enforce the Government rules designed to keep their loved ones safe. We bear it, however, as we know and understand how painful this has been for residents and families, and because we care.

As much as possible we have tried to fill that gap with even more caring and compassion, humour, and engagement (as much engagement is allowed with the almost complete reduction of activities which conflict with mandated COVID restrictions).

All of the rules and restrictions imposed at seniors’ and care sites across the province have been required by the CMOH and the Government of Alberta to try to manage a completely unknown and potentially devastating situation. The goal was/is to prevent what has happened in facilities in Ontario and Quebec. I can assure you the safety of your husband, and all residents, has been their top priority, even though it has resulted in residents and families having to be separated. Sadly, it has led to cases like your husband’s, too.

More than anything I want to assure you that those of us who do work in these facilities do care, and have put our own lives on hold and with heavy restrictions, too, in order to do our part to protect your loved ones as well. Many of us have even been prepared with bags packed to move into the facilities if the situation warranted to keep residents safe, thereby being away from our own families, too. COVID-19 and all that is it requiring and imposing on everyone is, without a doubt, beyond awful.

I am sorry for the loss of your husband, and hope you can find comfort and peace in your memories of him.

JustObserving

Well expressed Lethrez.

In March when the “lockdown” was imposed it is undeniable that the impact on family and resiidents was one of the door slamming shut. In the quest to safeguard the physical the mental and emotional states of both took a backseat. Positive results in one branch have, as Ms.Olsen illustrates, been at a high cost in others.
Given the time which has passed , the uncertainty as to when things will return to “normal” and the minimal relaxation of rules in such facilities to date I would agree with her contention that perhaps it is time for a more sensitive and reasoned approach to screening and access by family so as to ensure the well being of the resident in all senses of that word. Time restricted, weather dependant , distant outside visits should be seen as a small start of the return to some degree of normalcy and not the best we can do, period.
I too have a family member in a local seniors facility and though I have high respect for the staffers and have witnessed much of what you say to be fact, I seriously question the interpretation and application of some AHS policies by management of these facilities. An example: The communal dining room being closed service of meals was by tray delivery by a gowned/masked staffer to each room. Meal trays were sealed in plastic and no physical contact between staff and resident occurerd. What did occur was a “hello” or a “how are you doing”…oft times the ONLY human contact in a day of room isolation. New policy: Trays are to be left outside the door . Zero communication… To what end? Why take the humanity out of a simple act of kindness.

Ms Olsen, my deepest sympathies on your loss. I hope those who make the policy will get your message so those like Lethrez who implement it can do so with the compassion and caring it requires and the residents deserve.