At 100-years-old Dot Finnerty, who has dementia, has recently moved from her long-term care home to her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Brenda Brophy, says the day her mom came home is the day she started smiling again.
“She’s engaging, talkative, she’s got a sparkle back,” Brophy said.
Brophy made the difficult decision after noticing her mom deteriorating physically and mentally in care. Brophy, who used to visit daily, has only been able to visit her mom for an hour every two weeks.
“Because she was not actively dying, I couldn’t be an essential visitor, even though she lost weight, her cognitive function was declining and I thought well she’s 100 she weighs 68 pounds at that point. How is she not actively dying?” she said.
On Tuesday afternoon Brophy and her group Families for Change organized a rally in front of the B.C. legislature. Some held photos of their loved ones as they shared their stories of isolation and heartbreak.
“He’s so sad, when he sees me he comes off the elevator, he rushes over to see me, he grabs me and puts his head on my shoulder and sobs and sobs and sobs. He just doesn’t want to let go,” said Dannita Macluskie, whose husband is in a long-term care facility.
The group is urging health officials to allow essential family caregivers, those who used to visit and help out daily, to get better access to their loved ones.
“To be able to have a visit would make a huge difference to her quality of life and for all of us too to be able to be with her in some of her last days,” said Margaret Corcoran whose mother is in long-term care.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said on Monday that her office is working on updating guidelines but because older people are so susceptible to COVID-19 she needs to remain cautious.
“As you know part of the challenge is having sufficient staff to support visits in all LTC homes, we have defined essential visitors and who can be indicated as an essential visitor and we want very much to increase the numbers that an individual can have visiting them,” Henry said.
“Train us, give us the PPE, we’ll do what we have to do but don’t keep us locked out,” pleaded Brophy.
The B.C. Seniors Advocate is conducting a survey on visitation in long-term care, which is available here.