Pandemic has seniors and caregivers rethinking continuing care

Given the number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks continuing care homes, some are making the decision to keep loved ones at home.

Loved ones are looking for alternatives to continuing care amid COVID-19 cases and outbreaks

Wendy Moyle, seen here with her mother Madeline White, left, runs Wendy's Errands for Elders which helps support seniors living at home in the Edmonton area with basic services like grocery shopping. (Submitted by Wendy Moyle)

Connie Fast decided not to put her 68-year-old sister into long-term care.

Grace spent six months in the hospital battling cancer, which left her nearly bedridden. Doctors recommended she enter into long-term care.

But with the number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in continuing care homes, Fast decided her sister should be cared for at home.

"There was no possibility that I was going to stick my sister in a long-term care home with not being able to visit her and possibly, quite possibly, never see her again," said Fast, who lives in Edmonton.

Fast and her daughter gathered resources and help to make sure Grace could be properly cared for at home, with the support of health-care aides.

'They're afraid'

Wendy Moyle runs Wendy's Errands for Elders, which helps support seniors living at home in the Edmonton area with basic services like grocery shopping and companionship.

Since the pandemic, she says the phone has been ringing daily from families scrambling to get supports to keep their loved ones at home.

"They're afraid. They don't know what to do" said Moyle. "They don't know what to do because they need to find balance in their life so now they're scrambling for resources."

Moyle says care homes come with large expenses but so does home care, with the cost depending on how much care is needed.

"The families themselves reaching out are looking for resources to weigh the cost, a reasonable cost that they can afford. Families are trying to help their loved one that just can't afford it," she said.

"And the ones that don't have families here, I have those clients too. They don't have anybody here. And they're reaching out and they're desperate because now they don't know what to do."

Moyle's business has a floating scale to work with her client's budget so they can get the care they need.

Supporting seniors is a personal passion for Moyle. She took care of her father before he died and her mother has been in long-term care for two years.

She says before the pandemic, care facility staff were doing their best. Family members who regularly come in to care for loved ones helped with the staff's heavy workload, but it was still a struggle. With visitation restrictions due to the pandemic, Moyle says care is a serious concern.

"They just don't have the resources. So you add the pandemic on top of that, you can imagine if it was pre-pandemic what it is now during the pandemic."

She says staff continue to do their best in what has become a very difficult situation.

State of continuing care

The Alberta Continuing Care Association represents many continuing care, home care, supportive living and long-term care facilities in the province.

Executive Director Wayne Morishita says in a statement there has been a decline in the amount of new residents moving in to facilities, which he says is likely due to the pandemic.

"There are a number of reasons for this trend, including families choosing to look after loved ones in their own homes, necessary pandemic restrictions that limit family access, and the financial challenges facing Albertans," Morishita said.

"Due to current provincial restrictions on visitors to sites to help control the spread of infection, potential residents and their families may have to rely on virtual tours rather than onsite visits."

He added that the new vaccines are providing some hope.

Happy with decision

Fast says she made the right decision for her sister and her family.

Grace has been home for about a month and her condition continues to improve.  

"I think it is amazing. I have to phone her every day and tell her how proud I am of her. And she is tickled pink herself," said Fast.

"I am so happy that we have made this decision. I would not have it any other way." 


Tahirih Foroozan is a reporter with CBC Calgary.