B.C.'s seniors advocate calls on province to make family members of longer-term care residents essential | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C.'s seniors advocate calls on province to make family members of longer-term care residents essential

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After reviewing more than 13,000 surveys filled out by family members and residents of long-term care homes, B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie has three key recommendations for government.

Number one is that each resident needs to have at least one designated “essential care partner” to help staff take care of their basic needs.

“We need to more formally recognize the role that some family members play as essential care providers for their loved one,” Mackenzie wrote in her report titled: Staying Apart to Stay Safe: The Impact of Visit Restrictions on Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Survey released today, Nov. 3.

“Not only are these family members essential to their loved ones, they are essential to an overburdened long-term care system that is further stretched by the daily realities of this pandemic. We need to see these dedicated family members as a resource that can help us and not as an issue to be managed.”

The survey was conducted from Aug. 26 to Sept. 30 as a result of strict restrictions on visiting in care homes. In many cases, there were no visits at all from family members for months and now they are still strictly limited with different visiting rules in different facilities.

“There is emerging evidence these restrictions are having a negative impact on residents’ health,” Mackenzie wrote. “Residents have told us that contracting COVID-19 is not their biggest fear. We need to listen to and respect their voices.

“Residents have not surrendered their right of agency because they live in (long-term care). Their bodies and minds may be diminished in function but they can still, in many cases, understand risk, know they are nearing the end of their life and know, with absolute certainty, that spending time – meaningful time – with the people they love is what they want most.”

Her second recommendation is that at least one other person be allowed social visits.

“The large majority of respondents – both residents and families – reported that the current visitor restrictions are not working for them and some referred to them as inhumane,” Mackenzie wrote.

Since 75 per cent of residents in long-term and assisted living homes have single occupancy rooms, the visits need to be in the rooms to allow for longer visits with less burden on staff to supervise the visits.

That should free up space in common rooms for visits to people who share rooms.

And more family members need to be able to visit.

Finally, families and residents need to have more of a say in not only how the visits are managed under COVID-19 but into the future.

Right now, government consults stakeholders who are usually operators and their associations or unions representing workers. There is no formal voice for families or residents.

To correct that, Mackenzie is calling on the Ministry of Health to work with her office to establish a Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Resident and Family Council Association.

“The voice of residents and their family members must be embedded in decisions on how we shape our long-term care and assisted living system in British Columbia going forward,” she wrote.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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