Dot Finnerty. (Supplied by Brenda Brophy)
A Vancouver Island woman is calling on the province to remove restrictions on care home visitations.
Brenda Brophy started a petition on change.org called Remove restrictions on long term care visitation now!
Brophy says her mother, Dot Finnerty, a former longtime Campbell River resident, has dementia and lives in a long term care home in Victoria.
“I have not seen her since 6:00pm March 16th,” Brophy said.
“On April 5th she turned 100, on what should have been a joyful day celebrated by family coming in from across the country (including her 102 yr old sister from Saskatchewan), we were not able to be with her.”
Brophy went on to say that the COVID-19 restrictions on visitation in long term care homes in British Columbia, and specifically Vancouver Island have remained in place, even “in light of there being no new cases” in the region.
“This cannot continue; dementia is a relentless and unforgiving degenerative disease that waits for no one and certainly not for a vaccine,” she added.
“No plan has been released; we, the families are in the dark as to what metric would need to be reached in order to grant access. Is it until a vaccine is available? That means most of us will not see our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters again. Ever. They will die alone. Is it until we reach zero new cases in long term care homes in the province? Or is it until we have zero community transmission for X number of weeks? No one knows. We are not provided with real information.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Health acknowledged how difficult the visitation restrictions are for people in long-term care and their families.
“These measures were not taken lightly and continue to be an important protection for residents and staff. We have updated the essential visitor policy to help meet the physical and mental well-being of residents,” the statement continued. “However, due to the continued high risk COVID-19 poses to people in long-term care, we are not further changing visitation rules at this time.”
Meanwhile, Brophy says she has been “quite patient” with the restrictions, even though she desperately wants to see her mom.
“The seniors’ advocate came out quite a few weeks, now, back saying, ‘Yes, there’s a plan coming.’ (Provincial health officer, Dr.) Bonnie Henry even said a few weeks back that probably towards June there’d be outside visits. And then they seem to swing back and (health minister) Adrian Dix said just recently, ‘Oh no, we can’t ease up on the restrictions yet, it’s too dangerous.’”
At this point, Brophy wants to have a window visit with her mom.
Brophy believes stringent safety measures can be put in place to protect seniors in long term care while allowing them to see their loved ones.
“You could have plexiglass shields outdoors at a garden table, and even cut out an opening for hands so you could hold hands with hand sanitizer, there. Families could wear one of those shields that we see people wearing,” she added. “That would be safe but there doesn’t seem to be any will to look at how we can do it safely. The answer is just no, and we’re not going to tell you when.”
With the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 happening later in the year, Brophy believes now is the “safe window of opportunity” to visit seniors in care homes before the province shuts down again.
She fears that many families may never see our loved ones again if this doesn’t change.
You can connect to the petition here.