More staff needed for care homes, says woman caring for father with COVID-19 at Maples
Eddie Calisto-Tavares is staying at a hotel, away from family, to voluntarily care for father at his PCH
A Winnipeg woman is begging Manitoba health officials for more staff, as she isolates in a hotel to voluntarily care for her 88-year-old father, who has tested positive for COVID-19 at Maples Long Term Care Home.
Eddie Calisto-Tavares was given permission by Revera — the company that owns the home — to become the designated caregiver in the building for her father, Manuel, despite visitation being suspended due to an outbreak at Maples.
"I need to be present so my dad knows he's not abandoned," she said.
Since Oct. 23, when the outbreak at the home was declared, six people there have died from COVID-19. As of Monday, 117 residents and 29 staff members have tested positive for the illness.
With cases at the facility continuing to rise, Calisto-Tavares said she was worried about her father's care. He has dementia and doesn't speak English — only Portuguese. She said since the start of the pandemic, he's lost 10 pounds, developed shingles and fell twice.
Even with the issue of him wandering outside his room when he's supposed to be isolating, staff couldn't redirect him back in, she said.
On Friday, Calisto-Tavares made the proposal to Revera to become her father's designated caregiver and be given permission to enter and care for him.
Prior to the outbreak, residents were allowed two designated caregivers who can enter the home. But since the facility entered into lockdown and code red, all visitation has been suspended.
"I will go into a hotel. I will not be in contact with anyone. I will stop working. I will sign a waiver, but I want to see my father," Calisto-Tavares said.
Calisto-Tavares said Revera accepted her proposal. She's now staying at a nearby hotel and has booked a room for 10 days to limit contact, but Calisto-Tavares said she's willing to stay as long as it takes. Meanwhile, she won't go to work or see her family: her husband, son and grandchildren.
"That is very important to me that my dad knows he's loved, that if it's his time to go, that he passes peacefully," she said.
"I am not trying to hang on to a life that potentially is coming to an end … but I want it to be with dignity. I want him and others to feel like they're loved and they're not dying alone without family members, being able to know how much they love them."
Outcry about staff shortages
When she enters the home, Calisto-Tavares has to be fully dressed in personal protective equipment. She has been trained to follow protocols exercised by staff.
She said while being inside, she has witnessed concerning moments where residents weren't given the care they need. On one night, Calisto-Tavares said she saw a nurse look after 60 residents.
"You have dementia patients crying out for help, whether they need help or just their brain saying they need help, they should get some attention," she said.
Calisto-Tavares said she has lobbied politicians — like Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard — and Revera on numerous occasions to bring in the military and Canadian Red Cross to help with the staff shortage.
"I want people to realize, families out there, that we have the power to make change, we need to hold this government responsible," she said. "We had six months to get this right and we got it so wrong."
On Monday afternoon, she was told by Revera that they've managed to hire 20 additional support workers.
But Calisto-Tavares said support workers aren't nurses and they might not have the right skills or know how to use the necessary equipment to assist.
At a press conference on Monday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said he met with Patty Hajdu, Canada's minister of health, to inquire about the resources the Canadian Red Cross can provide.
"Those discussions are being explored," Friesen said.
"I also asked the Minister Hajdu to know whether there would be any advantage in bringing the military into jurisdiction at any point. It wouldn't be the point we are at now," he said.
Friesen said the idea could be considered for medical capacity in intensive care and there is some investigation into it.
"Manitobans need to know that … those groups who deliver care to our residents in long term care facilities are doing everything they can to keep the residents safe," he said.
Calisto-Tavares calls the outbreak a "disaster" and said she believes the province has breached her trust. She said from examining what took place in Ontario and Quebec, this could've been prevented.
"My dad would always say to me, 'have courage' and so I keep telling myself, you have to be strong, you have to fight, because this is beyond my dad. This is for all the seniors that are in this situation."
CBC sent a request into Revera, asking the company about its plan to bring in help from the Canadian Red Cross, but did not receive a response.