Some 99% of long-term care (LTC) and retirement home residents have been vaccinated with both doses, and yet they’re still locked into facilities — not free to even venture outdoors with the nice weather.
It’s been more than a year of loneliness and isolation for them.
When is enough, enough?
At an Ontario Health Coalition media conference this week, families of loved ones spoke about how wives are not being permitted to see their husbands, even after having COVID and two vaccinations.
One daughter said the only way she can see her dad is to remain in his room “in isolation alone with him.”
Sandra Caleta, who heads Advocates for Long-Term Care Ontario, said a lot of families are telling her that their loved ones in LTC are not allowed outside and in many cases are “isolated to their rooms” even when a home is not an outbreak.
“I understand that homes are being cautious but it’s overcautious at this point,” she said. “We have to return some quality of life to these residents … they’ve sacrificed an entire year for us.”
She said “they’re just existing at this point” and that’s not enough.
“They need to live again,” Caleta said.
Ontario Tech university associate professor Vivian Stamatopoulos said on April 1, an updated directive came from the LTC ministry granting outdoor access to residents.
She said Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health Barbara Yaffe indicated more would be forthcoming but nothing happened.
Stamatopoulos added that Ontario LTC minister Merrilee Fullerton is “nowhere to be found.
“None of this makes any sense,” she said. “The figures are pretty stable in LTC homes because of the vaccination rates and families are upset.”
She said families feel they’re “just being penalized for no reason” at this point when there may be little time left to spend with their loved ones.
“It’s inexcusable,” she said.
Rob McMahon, spokesperson for the long-term care ministry, said last month, they told homes that it’s critical to support resident wellness “by ensuring residents can go outdoors” — offering opportunities for caregivers to be with loved ones outside their rooms and “resuming small group activities.
“It is important for residents to be able to engage in physical activity and take part in activities that bring them joy, comfort, and dignity while still remaining safe (from the variants),” he said.
McMahon noted Ontario’s stay-at-home order includes outdoor exercise as an essential reason to leave one’s room and it is “no different” for LTC home residents.
An April 1 ministry memo made it clear that residents who aren’t isolating can go for walks even if the home is in an outbreak — on the home’s property or in the immediate area, he said.
He added that if a resident or family has a complaint about a home — including being banned from going outside — they should report the concern to the home. The homes are required to let the complainant know what they are doing to resolve the complaint and when the complainant can expect resolution, he said.
One wonders how long home administrators feel they can keep their residents isolated and alone in what has become their COVID jail — without any desperately needed social interaction — before more succumb to loneliness.
Hasn’t COVID claimed enough Ontario seniors during the past 13 months?
Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said despite the April 1 order, many homes have not resumed social activities and are not letting their residents out of facilities.
She called the continued isolation “ludicrous” and speculated this is being done “for the convenience of the homes” which are already short-staffed.