Thousands respond to survey on care home visits and impact of pandemic

A survey on visits to long-term-care homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted more than 7,000 written responses, and about 100 more respondents have requested telephone interviews, says B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

“Every day we are seeing hundreds of people answering the survey,” Mackenzie said. “This is telling us that people care deeply about this issue and they are wanting their voice to be heard.”

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The survey, released on Aug. 26, is available at carehomevisits.ca and will be open until Sept. 30, with findings expected by the end of October.

The survey asks long-term-care and assisted-living residents and their families about their experiences with COVID-19 restrictions

Brenda Brophy, whose mother Dot Finnerty, 100, is at Mount St. Mary Hospital in Victoria, said she filled out her survey “right away” and hopes to have her mother, who has dementia, answer the questions as well when she feels well enough.

Brophy, who said she is granted visits with her mom once every two weeks, said she was angry when she heard some care homes are offering online booking of up to three visits per week. “It’s frustrating because the facilities can make this happen; they just choose not to.” She said she’s been promised the number of visits at her mother’s care home will increase.

Prior to COVID-19, Brophy would see her mother daily. She said her mother has deteriorated cognitively and physically under the COVID-19 restrictions, and is often sad. “I’ve never seen her sad my entire life.”

Brophy hopes that any light shed on the negative effects of COVID restrictions on residents and families, and inconsistencies between seniors’ homes, will help improve the system.

The survey results, along with a review being done by the province are intended to guide the next 12 months of visits.

Long-term-care facilities have restricted visits to essential visitors since March 17 to protect vulnerable residents and minimize the spread of COVID-19. The majority of COVID-19 deaths in the province been among residents of long-term care facilities. While necessary, the impact of the restrictions on residents and families has been profound, said Mackenzie.

“We have got to figure out something that is humane that we can live with,” she said.

The restrictions were eased June 30 to allow for one scheduled, designated visitor per resident and provincial funding was provided to hire more staff to facilitate visits, but it was up to care facilities to determine the details.

The survey asks about the frequency, duration and locations of visits.

The office of the seniors advocate has heard anecdotally from residents and families that visiting experiences vary significantly from one care home to the next. Residents’ families have also complained of having visits monitored and not being allowed at the bedside or to touch their loved one.

Guidelines for “social” visiting, updated on Aug. 25, now say care homes should “aim to allow at least one social visit per week per resident,” that “formal supervision of a visit is considered intrusive and there is no expectation or mandate for this practice” and that “the location for a visit can be a resident’s room, provided it is a single room.”

Touching is also permitted if strict hand hygiene is followed.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

The survey is online at carehomevisits.ca. Respondents can choose from the following options:

1. The survey can be completed online at www.carehomevisits.ca

2. The survey can be downloaded and a print copy can be completed and mailed in.

3. Residents and/or family members can call the Office of the Seniors Advocate at 1-877-952-3181 and request that a copy be sent to them in the mail.

4. Residents and/or family members can call the Office of the Seniors Advocate and request to complete the survey over the phone.

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