B.C. seniors advocate launches survey on COVID visits in care homes

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie has launched a survey asking long-term-care and assisted-living residents and their families about their experiences with COVID-19 restrictions.

“They both have a unique story and they need to tell it in their own voice and British Columbians need to hear that story,” she said. “We need to look back on the past six months to understand what we need to do in the next 12 months.”

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The survey, Staying Apart to Stay Safe: The Impact of Visitor Restrictions on Long Term Care and Assisted Living, will be open until Sept. 30. The goal is make public some of the findings by the end of October.

Respondents can complete the survey online, mail it in or do it over the phone.

The survey is anonymous and does not ask for the name of the care home.

Long-term-care and assisted-living facilities have restricted visits since March 17 to protect residents and minimize the spread of COVID-19, and the impact on residents and families has been profound, said Mackenzie.

“This has been a tremendous sacrifice, not just for residents, but for family members.”

The restrictions were eased June 30 to allow for one scheduled, designated visitor per resident. Provincial funding was provided for four full-time equivalent positions in each care home to facilitate visits, but it’s been up to the care facilities to determine how to schedule and conduct the visits.

On Monday, Dix said visits are happening in care centres across the province except where there are active outbreaks. The visitation system is under review by the province and any expansion will come from that review and the addition of staff, he said.

The survey asks a variety of questions about the frequency, duration and locations of visits pre-COVID, during restrictions if they were essential visitors, and now during eased restrictions.

Mackenzie said her office is hearing anecdotally that visiting experiences vary significantly from one care home to the next.

Some care homes are offering weekly visits, others monthly. Some are in common supervised areas, while others are bedside.

“We’re trying to understand what is driving that range of visits and should there be a minimum standard,” Mackenzie said.

“We need to understand the totality of the impact of COVID-19 on the people who have been in long-term care.”

The survey can be completed online at carehomevisits.ca or downloaded, printed and mailed in. To request a copy in the mail, or to complete the survey over the phone, contact the Office of the Seniors Advocate at 1-877-952-3181.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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