I sit, in tears writing this letter. Mourning the loss of yet another day, another week, another month without my husband of 40 years. Until three months ago, I was with him every day as a caregiver, supporter, and advocate throughout his struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s. He now lives locked down, and isolated in a long-term care facility that took such poor care of its residents, a health authority administrator was ordered to be put in place. Lockdowns and isolation were necessary initially for our elder’s safety, but now, Island Health tells us there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks here for the past six weeks. No active cases either, in our hospitals or isolating at home. Vancouver Island is COVID-19 free.
The care facility my husband lives in continues to disallow all visitation ,except for families of elders who are in need of palliative care. There are no volunteers, no essential visitors, no activities to participate in except brief Face Time or phone calls for those who are able. Nothing but long empty days. The only human contact many elders get is when they are fed or changed. There is continual short staffing of care aides who must work double shifts, and of recreation staff. There are no replacements for LPN’s and no RNs on site, and this situation continues to plague the facility. This not a life I would wish on my worst enemy, but it has been forced without their consent on our vulnerable seniors. This situation is as harmful and abusive. Possibly even more so than the negligence inflicted on our elders in care, prior to the pandemic.
Before COVID-19, many of our elders endured such unspeakable abuse while in B.C.’s long term care facilities, that health authorities had to step into an administrative role. With thousands of reports to officials over dozens of years, the conditions were undeniable and are still un-remedied. Now with the COVID-19 lockdown our elders are being abused by our government again. They now live incarcerated and isolated from their families through no fault other than age and infirmity, and at a time when they need their family the most. The mental anguish and complete devastation this inflicts on both the elders and their families is unforgivable. I am despondent, heartsick, saddened, desperate, powerless and alone. I can only imagine how the thousands of elders living inside this hell feel. How many of them would rather die than continue to live this way? Governments, health ministers and health authorities have inflicted this on our elders. They need to do better!
The only contact for those who are able, are brief video and phone calls. If your loved one happens to be napping you miss your visit until the next week! Even as we hear of other care homes starting to allow family visits, those visits are far too short and too infrequent. One half hour a week will inflict even more mental harm on loved ones as they are reconnected to family and then are denied access again. How could anyone believe it is acceptable to ration family? Anyone who believes this isolation is saving more lives than it is harming, is wrong. It is inflicting long lasting untold mental and emotional harm on thousands and thousands of families. How many people have died as a result of isolation and emptiness?
Health care officials have identified many ways to curb the spread of the virus. We need to employ them and let families reconnect. Family is everything. Staff are not family! Human contact with loved ones is necessary even for the most minimum quality of life. Isolation is abuse. Please help us demand that care facilities in regions with no COVID-19 allow families to be with our loved ones, where we belong. Help us all to reconnect with our loved ones.