VICTORIA -- Trevor Gent saw his 80-year-old father in person for the first time in five months on Thursday.

Rob Gent has dementia and lives at Sunridge Place, a care home in Duncan.

Because of restrictions during the pandemic, Trevor and his family have only seen Rob through window visits and FaceTime chats, so Thursday’s visit was meaningful and particularly emotional.

“It was absolutely excellent,” Trevor says. “It was nice to see him, all smiles. There was lots of talking and stuff like that.”

Trevor says the window visits his family has shared with his ailing father are no substitute for in-person visits, and it's been hard for the whole family, especially his father.

“It’s extremely difficult, more so I think for him, with his failing health," he says. "I think he needs the comfort of familiar people.”

The province announced at the end of June that it was lifting the ban on in-person visits at care homes.

Sunridge Place started taking appointments for visits on Tuesday, and 120 families signed up.

Trevor says having a family member there in person makes a big difference.

“To watch my father, he’s lost quite a bit of weight," he says. "It could be the disease he has or it could just be loneliness.”

Mike Klassen with the BC Care Providers Association says the importance of in-person visits for the overall health of care home residents is undeniable.

He says even if there is a second or third round of COVID-19, as long as a care home doesn’t have an outbreak, the association will push to continue the visits "to try to ensure that we can maintain these social bonds between family members and residents, right through another wave of the pandemic."

Trevor is already looking forward to next week’s visit, as well as to when the province eventually allows more than one person per family to visit loved ones.

“I do feel a little guilty that my brothers can’t go visit as well," he says. "I think it’s unfair to them."

It’s not yet known when the restrictions will further loosen, but Trevor is grateful and relieved to see the smile on his dad’s face, in person.