'Serious inquiry' needed into B.C.’s lockdown of long-term care homes due to COVID-19 - InfoNews

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'Serious inquiry' needed into B.C.’s lockdown of long-term care homes due to COVID-19

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August 11, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Back in February, 90-year-old Doreen Sherwood was so fit and spry that she had “escaped” from her Surrey long term care home three times in eight weeks.

That was before Elim Village was locked down because of a viral  infection. That kind of situation had been happening off and on since December and is common in care homes during influenza season.

But what Sherwood’s daughter-in-law, Linda Reid, hadn’t expected was that COVID-19 would come along and she wouldn't be able to see Sherwood again until the elderly woman was on her deathbed.

“That’s why everything seemed so shocking to us because, when we saw her in February, she was mobile, she was talking,” Reid told iNFOnews.ca. “Although she had Alzheimer’s, she was able to talk. She knew who her kids were. She was mixed up sometimes, of course, but she was pretty happy. We used to go out for walks with her.”

Therein lies part of the problem.

Because she was so fit and because there was such uncertainty about COVID-19, the family assumed she was OK. Because of the Alzheimer’s, phone and video visits were out of the question.

The family was contacted in April and told a care aid had tested positive for COVID-19 and residents had been screened.

They checked the news every day to see when the outbreak would be declared over.

It wasn’t until early June that another call came, saying Sherwood had taken a couple of falls and was confined to a wheelchair.

“We were all shocked by that,” Reid said. “That’s when we started talking about: ‘we’ve got to make sure we get in to see her.' Then, it was like a couple of weeks later they said, 'you guys better come in because she’s not going to last very long.'”

Family members were allowed to visit Sherwood in her room, one a time. One of her sons was by her side when she died the next day.

“We don’t know what happened over the last four months,” Reid said. “She was healthy and strong for a woman who was 90 years old. Then to see her lying in a bed with her eyes closed, medicated – it was really, really sad.”

Sherwood had been in the home for a couple of years. It was clean and workers were pleasant but it seemed understaffed so no one was watching the three times she wandered off, walking eight blocks or more before strangers helped her back.

Management did not take kindly to the family complaining about the lack of supervision.

“They did not like us much after that, clearly,” Reid said.

READ MORE: Speaking up for long term care residents almost cost this woman her home

Back in February, everyone in the family thought Sherwood had a good year or more to live.

“When you’re 90, nobody knows,” Reid said. “But, the sad thing for all of us is, she didn’t have her family around for four months. It’s hard not to think that’s why she passed away.”

Which got them questioning the whole COVID-19 strategy of locking family out of long term care homes.

“This has been hard for all of us, locked away, trying to do our best (to stop the spread of COVID-19),” Reid said. “I just can’t imagine a person who is 90 years old, who is used to seeing their family all the time, to be isolated in their room. Like, she was stuck in her room. Her bed was pushed against the wall. Everything that was sort of personal was gone. How do you leave somebody for four months with no contact? Sure, someone comes in and changes her diaper, does whatever. But she’s had no contact in four months. I don’t know if I’d want to live after that long. It’s just unimaginable that we did this to the people that we say we care about and we love.”

While the families were banned, staff came and went.

“I think we need some kind of serious inquiry into this,” Reid said. “It just seems so wrong. I’m so confused about this. We’re supposed to keep these vulnerable people safe. That’s the last place they were safe in because that’s where all the care aids were travelling from place to place making themselves sick, making the people who lived in there sick. I would say, all the people with family members in there were not sick. Why were we the ones that were not allowed to go in there? It makes absolutely no sense at all, to me.”

READ MORE: B.C. woman 'not getting anywhere' in trying to help loved one in care home

The family has written to Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Fraser Health, trying to find out what happened to Sherwood in the last four months of her life.

“I don’t think any of us expect any kind of answer,” she said.

While she has praise for Dr. Henry and how she has handled the pandemic in general, Reid questions the treatment of long term care residents.

“Her role was to protect the sick and vulnerable,” Reid said. “Why would we assume people, just because they’re 90 and have a level of Alzheimer’s, that they don’t have any emotions or feelings about their family and that it was OK just to lock them away, for their own sake?

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. I would love a really good explanation as to why we did this.”

Fraser Health does not comment on individual cases. It advised, in an email, that the family talk to the managers of Elim Village if they want more information or to ask for assistance from the Patient Quality Care Office.

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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