When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March, seniors in long-term care homes were among the hardest hit.
On the North Shore, where Lynn Valley Care Centre became the first seniors’ home in Canada to have an outbreak, more than 50 seniors contracted the virus and 20 died. Overall in B.C., two-thirds of those who died have been residents of nursing homes.
But as families have pointed out, seniors living in those homes have also experienced some of the worst “unintended consequences” of the pandemic. To prevent them from dying, they have largely been cut off from meaningful contact with those they love. They have been prevented from living with the joy and dignity they deserve.
As seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie makes clear in her recent report, staying safe has come at a huge cost.
Her report is heartbreaking reading.
The mantra of “It’s not forever, it’s just for now” isn’t true for someone in their 80s or 90s in declining health. Now is all they have.
Most residents of care homes will die of causes unrelated to COVID-19.
Eliminating all risk of contracting the virus – most of which has been introduced to care homes by staff rather than visitors – isn’t possible.
Eliminating all joy should not be an acceptable side effect either.
As Mackenzie points out, “Residents have told us contracting COVID-19 is not their biggest fear. We need to listen to and respect their voices.”
“What are we keeping them safe for if not to enjoy the limited time they have left with the ones they love?”
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