Social isolation a serious concern for seniors in care homes

Watch Seniors in long-term care are struggling with social isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions. But as Tess van Straaten reports, the Eldercare Foundation is hoping you can help.

For seniors in long-term care, social isolation is taking a toll.

Many haven’t been able to see friends or family for weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Cobble Hill’s Joan Wikkerink is used to seeing her dad, John, four to five times a week.

But now, she visits him from outside his window at Cerwydden long-term care in Duncan, talking on the phone and waving at him through the glass.

“The most we can do is come out here and spend a few minutes, whether it’s 10 or 15 minutes, it makes his day and makes our day and we can see each other’s smiles,” Wikkerink says.

It’s now been three weeks since Wikkerink — and thousands of other Vancouver Island families — have been able to be in the same room as their loved ones.

“This is very, very difficult,” says Lori McLeod of the Eldercare Foundation. “Not only are their friends and family no longer able to come in and visit, we don’t have any volunteers coming in, the activities have stopped, our music therapists can’t come in, and our art programs have stopped.”

At the six Island Health long-term care facilities the Eldercare Foundation supports in Greater Victoria, most residents don’t even have phones or TVs in their rooms.

That’s why the Eldercare Foundation is putting out the call for unlocked phones and IPads — as long as they’re gently used and less than three years old.

They’ll be given to residents so they can connect with family and reduce the serious impact social isolation is having on them.

“Alarmingly, it’s even equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day so isolation and loneliness is a really big concern,” McLeod says.

Monetary donations are also being accepted and can be made over the phone.

As for Joan Wikkerink, whose mom is isolated all by herself at home, she’s just thankful her dad has dedicated staff looking after him each day.

“Everyone that steps in to take of our loved ones inside these care homes, we really appreciate that and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” she says.

If you have a gently-used phone or ipad you’d like to donate or if you’d like to make a cash donations, you can call 1-250-370-5664 or go to the the Eldercare Foundation website.

For safety reasons, do not take items to the care homes.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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