Return of family visits in Interior long term care homes is 'heart-wrenching' and confusing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Return of family visits in Interior long term care homes is 'heart-wrenching' and confusing

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July 18, 2020 - 6:30 AM

While long term care homes in the Interior Health Region are slowly opening up to visitors, some are finding the rules confusing even though they’re happy to regain some closeness to their loved ones.

“In general, the one-on-one visit with my mom was wonderful,” Debbie Solin told today. “It was great to see her and everything else. She needs a haircut like most people do but they’re working on that. But, when we were told it was going to be another two weeks before we can visit again, it was just heart wrenching for my mom. She went, ‘why do I have to wait another two weeks?’ I said, ‘mom, it’s OK, we’ll talk on the phone.’”

Solin’s 78-year-old mother had a stroke last fall and, given her level of dementia, could no longer be looked after at home. She moved into Westview Extended Care home in Penticton in February.

They last saw each other on March 4. Shortly after, non-essential visitors were banned from long term care homes throughout the province.

Solin understands that safety is paramount but was quick to jump at the first available appointment to see her mom, which was July 14.

“Right before my visit with my mom she phoned me... and asked if I could bring her a Tim Hortons coffee,” Solin said. “I said, ‘no mom, I can’t bring you anything.’ She said ‘I’m looking at the staff and they have Tim Hortons. Why can they have stuff and I can’t have stuff?’ That’s heartbreaking.”

That’s also confusing.

Solin was not allowed to take anything in for her mom, not even a wrapped and sealed chocolate bar her mom had asked for.

She heard from another visitor that he saw someone passing one of the staff a Dairy Queen ice cream cone though a side door while she was visiting.

During the visit, Solin got her sister, who lives in Vancouver, set up on Facetime so she could visit as well.

“I had to hold my phone on the table so mom could see her,” Solin said. “They (people supervising the visit) started to give me the stink eye. I said, ‘you know, it’s fine. I’m four feet away from my mom. It’s OK.’ It was awful. I haven’t seen my mom in four months. I couldn’t hold her or hug her or hold her hand. I can’t look at her to see if she has bruises or anything – not that I thought she did, but you want to look at these things, right? I couldn’t go to her room to check on her room.”

Yet, that may not be the case everywhere.

One woman posted photos on a Facebook page of her recent visit with her mom.

“First visit with Mom since beginning of March,” the woman, who lives in Cranbrook, posted. “Felt so good to be able to hug and kiss her.”

Last Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that a number of long term care homes in B.C. had visiting plans in place after visits started to be allowed.

READ MORE: Long term care homes in B.C. being opened up for visitors on a limited basis

At that time, only four of 79 care homes in the Interior Health region had plans in place. Despite repeated efforts since then, no one from Interior Health will say how many within its jurisdiction are now open to visitors and what the rules are.

“Our only information is that we are implementing plans and expect an update from the minister,” communications officer Susan Duncan said in an email.

For Solin, there seems to be a double standard where staff can bring in outside food but visitors can’t.

“The risk is so low right now because Interior Health has done a great job of keeping the virus out,” she said. “But our seniors and elders are deteriorating. It’s the loneliness. They don’t have the entertainment coming in, they don’t have the projects.”

Dix also boosted funding to care homes to pay the additional costs needed in order to allow for safe visits.

But at Westview, which Solin said has 102 residents, they’re only allowing visitors in three days a week. That’s why her an her mom have to wait until July 28 to see each other again.

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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