'We're losing valuable time here': Families still waiting for visits at Duncan care home
VICTORIA -- It’s been a month since the provincial government announced that in-person visits with residents of B.C care homes would be allowed to restart.
Still, Trevor Gent has not been allowed to have such a visit with his 80-year-old father, Rob, who lives at the Sunridge Place care home in Duncan.
Gent is frustrated and upset. His father has dementia and Gent has witnessed — from afar — his father’s already frail health decline.
“He can’t carry a sentence, period, anymore,” Gent said. “I mean, we’re losing valuable time here.”
Since the pandemic began, Gent has only seen his father twice — for so called “window visits” — on Father’s Day and last month for his birthday.
His dad suffered a fall last week, causing a black eye, which has amplified Gent’s desire to see him in person, so he can comfort him.
His frustration is shared by Sam Muenzler, whose father lives in the same care home and has Alzheimer’s.
“He’s not going to know us in the very near future, he’s fading fast,” said Muenzler.
Park Place Seniors Living, the company that runs the care home, says it plans to start taking appointments for in-person visits next Tuesday, with actual visits beginning later that same week.
Ian West, who works for the company, says the care home has been waiting for funding that was promised by the provincial government to help hire extra staff to ensure the in-person visits are safe.
West says that funding hasn’t arrived yet, but the company is going ahead with hiring extra staff and is operating on the basis that the funding will arrive soon.
He maintains that safety during the pandemic is the number one priority, and the care home does not want to rush to open for in-person visits in an unsafe way.
“We can’t forget at the end of the day, nothing has changed fundamentally about the virus’ ability to migrate,” said West, emphasizing that safety was the reason for the ban on in-person visits in the first place.
Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Health Minister, weighed in on the issue Thursday, noting the province had already provided funding to care homes and was in the process of providing the $160 million it promised last month to help homes manage in-person visits.
He also said he expects all care homes in the province to be accommodating visits by next week.
“It’s my expectation that 100 per cent of care homes and assisted living homes will have safety plans in place by next Thursday,” Dix said.
Island Health says its understanding is that all care homes on Vancouver Island — except the five run by Park Place Seniors Living — are now taking in-person visits. The health authority adds it has followed up with the company to ensure such visits will be happening at its facilities next week.
Mike Klassen with the BC Care Home Association confirms that many facilities in BC are already allowing the visits. He adds that facilities that are not allowing them yet are on track to provide them.
Klassen notes that staffing levels are vital for safe visits and that safety is paramount.
“For this to be safe for family members and for staff, we have to make sure that there are enough staff members to manage the visits,” he said.
Gent says he is cautiously optimistic that he will have the chance to see his father in person week.
Visits are growing in significance for families desperate to see loved ones, with precious little time left.
“This is stuff you’re never going to get back again. Once its gone its gone,” said Gent.