B.C. launches survey to measure impact of COVID-19 visit restrictions at seniors care homes

Feedback being accepted online or over the phone until Sept. 30, B.C's seniors advocate announces

The B.C. government wants to know more about how visit restrictions at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities in the era of COVID-19 have affected seniors who reside there as well as their families.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate, announced that her office was conducting a new survey of people’s experience with visit restrictions when they were mandated in March during the height of the pandemic.

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The survey will ask questions about people’s visits to care homes before the pandemic, how often they visited, or, for residents, how often they received visitors and what types of activities they did during these visits, according to Mackenzie.

“Without a doubt, one of the most heart-breaking sacrifices that has been required of seniors and their loved ones has been for those 40,000 or so seniors who live in long-term care and assisted living that went without visits for over three months and who are still struggling with our revised visit limitations that for some are bearing very little resemblance to their pre-pandemic visits,” said Mackenzie.

While B.C. proceeded with an ease of restrictions on June 30 that allowed for one designated visitor per care home resident, Mackenzie said her office wanted to know more about how that arrangement was working for seniors and their families, and how it has ultimately affected their health and well-being.

Many seniors and their families throughout the province have contacted her office and described how they were struggling with social isolation due to visitor restrictions.

“We need a balance. And the question is: where is that balance? Yes, we want to keep people safe from COVID-19, but what are we keeping them safe for if it’s not to enjoy what’s left of their life,” said Mackenzie.

Since the pandemic started, outbreaks of the virus at seniors care facilities have accounted for the majority of B.C.’s more than 200 deaths, including a man in his 80s who passed away from the virus at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre in March and became the first documented case of someone dying from the novel coronavirus in Canada.

Mackenzie’s office plans to publish a report in October that outlines the experience of seniors living in long-term care, as well as that of the family members of those residents, under the COVID-19-era visit restrictions. The report will offer suggestions to help make the visit experience better while still maintaining safety, she said.

“That will help us understand how we can shape a visit policy that we can live with for the next year,” she said.

The survey is available at www.carehomevisits.ca. The link will be shared with long-term care and assisted-living staff who can help residents complete it, according to Mackenzie.

Care home residents or family members can also call 1-877-952-3181 to have a copy of the survey mailed to them for completion, or to complete the survey over the phone.

Feedback is being accepted for the provincewide survey until Sept. 30.

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