Island families struggle with care home isolation
VICTORIA -- Three weeks ago, Jasbir James was told she could no longer visit her mom, Nirmal, who is in a care facility.
Her mother has been in a home for over eight years, and for half of that time James has been visiting twice a day to help feed her.
"It is devastating,” James told CTV News. “I am completely crushed.”
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, all care homes on Vancouver Island are closed to visitors. The social isolation is not only challenging for the seniors living in them, but also their families.
James says her mom does not understand why James is not able to visit, and a language barrier between Nirmal and her care team is leaving her lost.
"She would never have abandoned me, and I just feel like I've been forced to abandon her."
James says, without her, Nirmal is starting to deteriorate and is no longer eating. It is why she is considering taking her mom out of care and bringing her home.
The decision to move elderly parents out of facilities is something that BC's top doctor is advising against. Dr. Bonnie Henry says it can be highly disruptive to seniors' lives.
Meanwhile, B.C.'s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, is encouraging people to consider the long term effects of moving relatives out of care.
"If you move them out, and then find you are not able to care for them, and they have to return to the care home, they are going to have to be isolated for 14 days," said Mackenzie.
At care homes, staff are working hard to try to fill the role of family who are no longer visiting. Anita Charron works at a nursing home in Port Alberni, and also has an “Oma” in a care home.
She says that staff are going above and beyond to provide care during this challenging time.
"All the people who work in her care home have stepped up and are doing the extra [things] that family and friends would have been doing with visits and programs," said Charron.
For people whose loved ones understand what is going on, she suggests calling and finding creative ways to visit outside their window.
“Try to keep their spirits up as much as possible,” said Charron. “We can talk about good memories from the past and give them something to look forward to."
There are resources available to vulnerable seniors in B.C. A new phone line, 2-1-1, has been set up to match seniors who are living at home with volunteers who can help with daily tasks. People looking for help or those who want to volunteer can call the line or visit the website here.
The 2-1-1 service is looking for people who can deliver groceries, pick up prescriptions, prepare meals, or be a virtual visiting buddy during the pandemic.