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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, retired Toronto police service detective Norm Booth spent every lunch and dinner feeding his 73-year-old wife.

He says being with Maureen, who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s and is in Guelph’s Homewood Health Centre, helped reduce her stress, depression and anxiety.

But since COVID hit last year, he says he’s been granted only limited visits with strict protocols — and the idea of feeding her is strictly a non-starter.

When we spoke Monday, Booth was beside himself because after Maureen was sent three times to Guelph General Hospital last month — due to declines in her BP and oxygen — he learned she’d dropped 10 pounds.

“Homewood was telling me she won’t eat,” he said.

Homewood Health Centre is owned by Schlegel Health Care.

Booth says while his wife was in hospital, he was permitted to feed her all her meals and drinks — following “strict protocols” and dressed in PPE and gloves.

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Booth said he used plastic cutlery, which helped her eat better than with larger metal cutlery.

But when he visited her in Homewood, he noted that some of the less-experienced PSWs were trying to feed her using a large tablespoon full of food, which Maureen couldn’t handle.

He added that it takes an hour to get her to finish but he said several of the PSWs only spend so many minutes before essentially giving up.

“They will not listen to me that she needs time to eat,” he said.

“She’s going to deteriorate,” he added, noting she hasn’t been outside in the past year for a “breath of fresh air.”

He asked if “on compassionate grounds” he could be at the home on the three days he visits at both lunch and dinner in order to feed her himself. He says he’s now fully vaccinated.

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But in a May 19 letter from Sharon Deally-Grzybowski, director of clinical operations, he was told that in the context of COVID-19 and the “increasing prevalence of variants of concern” the local public health department and Homewood’s infection control department, have determined the current protocols and they will remain in place “until further notice.”

That meant he’d have to adhere to scheduled visits and not be able to feed her.

The letter writer advised Booth that if these infection control protocols “continue to be difficult” his wife can be sent home.

She added that they are exploring options of “alternate care environments” that may better suit his desire to engage with Maureen outside of their “current infection control policies and protocols.”

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Booth said that told him he’d better do it “their way or the highway.

“They don’t care … it’s a shame,” he claimed.

Natasha Lemieux, Homewood Health Centre’s VP of Patient Services & Clinical Services, told the Toronto Sun on Tuesday Homewood has a “number of COVID-related precautions in place” and limitations on numbers of visitors to keep safe distances.

She said not all patients are vaccinated because some have chosen not to get the vaccine and there are continual admissions and discharges of people who have not yet received it in the community.

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She said the residents in the unit where Booth’s wife is located are “particularly vulnerable” and often can’t understand physical distancing and infection control protocols or are unable to tolerate wearing a mask for any length of time.

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“We have to make sure we have the appropriate amount of space available so loved ones can see their family members and do so in a space that allows better opportunities for folks to stay away from one another,” Lemieux said.

She says Booth can’t feed his wife to “ensure good infection control.” She added that they are very well-staffed on the unit to provide “good quality care,” which includes feeding.

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“It has been a challenge … people are exhausted and have pandemic fatigue,” she said, noting that they have not a single COVID-related death over the course of the pandemic.

“We are all waiting with bated breath for restrictions to be eased up.”

SLevy@postmedia.com

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