Remove restrictions on long term care visitation now!

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My name is Brenda, I am a daughter and I am desperate for your help and support. My mother has dementia; she lives in a long term care home. I have not seen her since 6pm March 16th. On April 5th she turned 100, on what should have been a joyful day celebrated by family coming in from across the country (including her 102 yr old sister from Saskatchewan), we were not able to be with her. The Covid-19 lock-down was in place, agreeably necessary at the time, in order to keep the most vulnerable, our seniors, safe from the virus. We were sad, yet we understood. We have waited. I have waited, however we still remain under lock down with no accountability from the care homes or our governments on what the next phase will mean for us.

I have cared for my mom's needs daily for the 3 years that she has been in care and long before that, taking care of her as best I could, knowing age was catching up, dementia was setting in. I know her needs like no other person. It is not through any arrogance that I say I have saved her life on more than one occasion, noticing health issues no one else would. I am now denied access, not even window visits. Virtual visits are at the whim of staff, with limited ability to accommodate. Three months in, she is not the same, things are changing. Not due to aging, or dementia, but simply because I cannot see her to do the daily tasks that keep her happy, healthy and engaged. Yes, she is 100. But she is not done yet, she has joy in her heart and in her soul, she deserves a life rich of experience and happiness.

Covid-19 restrictions on visitation in long term care homes in BC, and specifically Vancouver Island have remained in place, even in light of there being no cases in care homes, and no new cases in the region. This cannot continue; dementia is a relentless and unforgiving degenerative disease that waits for no one and certainly not for a vaccine. No plan has been released; we, the families are in the dark as to what metric would need to be reached in order to grant access. Is it until a vaccine is available? That means most of us will not see our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters again. Ever. They will die alone. Is it until we reach zero new cases in long term care homes in the Province? Or is it until we have zero community transmission for X number of weeks? No one knows. We are not provided with real information.

The Senior's Advocate today on Global said that rest assured, there is much work being done behind the scenes on this issue. Then I ask, be transparent and tell us what that plan is. We see the plans for schools, restaurants, bars, public spaces, yet care homes have next to no focus or information. I strongly believe this is due to the inability of most family members to advocate and a lack of vocal advocacy groups for seniors.  I am lucky in some respects. I am relatively young to have a mother who is 100 yrs old. In the 1960s, how many woman were giving birth in their mid 40s? I rarely meet another person my age with a mother who is 100 living in a care home suffering from dementia. Most family members I get to know are themselves  seniors and do not know where to turn or how to advocate. The media is not focused on this issue so it remains unseen and unheard.

The truth is, most seniors in care will decline, die or deteriorate to the point they no longer know their family members, while those in positions of authority claim this continuing isolation is in their best interest. They are in fact being kept imprisoned without the ability to understand why. This was necessary to start, but we are now mitigating a risk that doesn't exist in our region, where alternative options would work and keep everyone safe if there was the funding and will to make it happen.

Other marginalized groups are the focus; hotels are being purchased for housing, schools are investing large amounts of money to ensure life can resume, yet seniors are left to deteriorate and die alone without the most important advocates being afforded access to ensure they are cared for as they deserve to be. No one is on the inside watching. Only those that have lived this reality truly know what goes on when no one is there to step in; we are the ones that know that without sons, daughters, husband, wives, friends, companions and volunteers, residents are simply fed, tasks are completed and they are kept alive. We don't train, fund or invest in the kind of care any one of us would hope, for if we ourselves should end up in one of these facilities. Please help get this the focus it deserves and breaks the silence.