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'Those visits made a big difference': Husband of wife in long-term care upset after facility stops window visits
HALIFAX -- While the COVID-19 pandemic has left many Maritimers feeling isolated, it has been especially hard on seniors in long-term care homes, who have been without outside visitors for more than two months. Restrictions were placed on the facilities in March to prevent the spread of the virus.
The pandemic has been difficult for 73-year-old John Charles, who hasn't been able to see his wife of 50 years.
Rhonda Charles has Parkinson’s disease. She entered Arborstone Enhanced Care, a long-term care home in Halifax, the day before Nova Scotia announced visitor restrictions.
“At that very moment, there were people crying inside and people crying outside, because there were other people there with their spouses too,” says John.
John started doing window visits with his wife. Staff would bring Rhonda’s wheelchair up to her second floor window so he could wave from below and talk to her on the phone.
Management for Arborstone Enhanced Care, which is owned by Shannex, sent an email Monday saying window and balcony visits had to stop for “safety reasons.”
“Because each buildings is unique, we have had to review our practice at each location to put safety measures in place that ensure the visits take place without putting residents or visitors at risk and to comply with all Public Health directives including physical distancing. This means our practice may differ between communities,” said Shannex in a statement.
“Due to the building layout and outdoor space that surrounds this particular home, it has been difficult to accommodate outdoor window visits for residents who live on upper floors of the building while maintaining safety and compliance with Public Health directives including physical distancing. As a result, we have had to limit window visits to the first floor of this building.”
John does not have the means for video chat and is worried about his wife.
“She's in that room by herself. They don't have any activities going on right now because they're trying to isolate people. When she's having a bad day, a 10 or 15 minute visit, all of a sudden makes all the difference in the world,” says John.
Janice Keefe is the director of the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging. She says isolation can impact a senior's mental and physical well-being.
“Is there not a way we can put more resources where they may be able to have a designated family member, dressed in protection equipment, to visit individuals,” asks Keefe.
Facilities in Prince Edward Island may soon be welcoming visitors back, according to Marion Dowling, the province’s chief of nursing. Dowling says more details will be available on the matter Thursday.
In New Brunswick, the government’s social services minister says the province is looking at how it can open care homes to visitors, but has yet to set a date.
Inverary Manor in Inverness, N.S. announced it would allow physically distant visits between residents and family members in its outdoor courtyard.
John says he wants to see his wife, even if it is from a distance.
“Those visits made a big difference to her,” he says.