British Columbia

B.C. family 'cautiously optimistic' about lifting of long-term care visitor restrictions

Throughout much of the pandemic, Danielle Noël has been the only person allowed to visit her 89-year-old mother, Marion, who lives in a long-term care home. That will change as the province is set to lift visitor restrictions starting next week.

Province says most care homes will be able to welcome visitors by March 18

Danielle Noël pictured in a photograph with her 89-year-old mother, Marion Noël, who lives in a long-term care home in Maple Ridge, B.C. Other family members will be able to visit Marion soon as B.C. lifts more visitor restrictions starting March 18. (Submitted by Danielle Noël)

Throughout much of the pandemic, Danielle Noël has been the only person allowed to visit her 89-year-old mother, Marion.

Marion lives in a long-term care home in Maple Ridge. Due to visitor restrictions, Noël was the only person allowed to celebrate her mother's recent birthday with her, in person.

"The other family members are being robbed of those visits. When family members are in long-term care or hospice, you don't know if it's going to be your last visit with them so you cherish every single one," Noël said.

But the rules around loved ones visiting long-term care facilities are changing, with the province announcing plans to lift restrictions.

Danielle Noël says her two sons are excited to be able to see their grandmother with the lifting of visitor restrictions in long-term care homes. (Submitted by Danielle Noël)

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said by March 18, most long-term care facilities are expected to be ready for more visitors, who must be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 when entering. 

Leslie Gaudette, president of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C., says it's about the quality of life for residents, and that this is something that has been missing throughout the pandemic.

"It's very hard. We know that the longer people are confined to their home without visitors their mental and physical health deteriorates," Gaudette said.

Risk factor still a concern

Noël says although she's happy more relatives will be able to visit her mother, she is also concerned more visitors at the facility will increase her mother's risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

That concern, along with ongoing staffing shortages, are top of mind for the B.C. Care Providers Association.

President Terry Lake says visitors will still need to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire about symptoms they may have, show their vaccination card, and do a rapid test on-site.

"So it's not just a matter of opening up the doors and allowing three or four times as many visitors," Lake said.

Staffing shortages at long-term care homes could also present challenges, said Lake.

"[Families] may have to schedule visits, not just having people show up ad hoc, because of the challenges of screening and staffing," he said.

Regardless of the potential challenges, Noël is cautiously optimistic.

"I think we're all hopeful that more visits are coming. That my sons can go see their grandma and hug her and kiss her and go tell her in person that they love her."

With files from Joel Ballard


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