A new study has found the constraints on visitation to B.C.'s care homes to protect against COVID-19 are having their own negative health impacts on the elderly.
This week the Office of the Seniors Advocate released the results of Staying Apart to Stay Safe, a province-wide survey on the impact of visit restrictions at long-term care and assisted living homes. The report reflects the experience of more than 13,000 residents and their family members over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie spoke to the survey’s findings saying the visit restrictions were imposed out of care for seniors, but noted there is a need to balance the limitations.
Mackenzie said she is grateful for actions taken by the province when COVID-19 first struck Vancouver care homes in March saying she believes many lives were saved.
Mackenzie went on to say that as residents and family members look ahead to many more months’ restrictions they are asking for more time with their loved ones.
“What are we keeping them safe for if it is not to enjoy the time they have left with the ones they love? While COVID-19 has tragically claimed the lives of 151 residents of long-term care and assisted living, more than 4,500 other residents have died from something other than COVID-19,” Mackenzie said. “In many cases, they spent their final months, weeks and days in relative isolation, unable to spend time with those they loved most.”
The report points to signs of negative health impacts on residents, one example being the substantial increase in the use of antipsychotic medication since visit restrictions were implemented. Also, clinical assessments show an increase in unexplained weight loss and worsening of mood or symptoms of depression.
The survey found that most family members and residents support some visit restrictions during the pandemic but they have their recommendations going forward. Suggestions include allowing residents and family members to visit more often with one other person and that they should have a say in the decision-making process.
The complete report is available at https://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca/reports/.