Residents worried, lonely amid COVID-19 outbreaks at Winnipeg care homes

Residents are feeling cooped up inside, while families are worried and want information as outbreaks grow at two Winnipeg personal care homes: Parkview Place and Heritage Lodge.

Families want more information as outbreaks grow at two personal care homes

Clifford Nelson, who lives at Parkview Place personal care home and says he even wears his mask when he sleeps, says the outbreak has made life more stressful and lonely. (CBC/Erin Brohman)

Clifford Nelson is trying to quit, but these days it feels safer to go outside for smoke breaks than stay inside Parkview Place. He wears a mask at all times, even when he sleeps.

Nelson lives on the ninth floor of the 277-bed facility, now home to the biggest personal care home outbreak in Manitoba. There are 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 20 residents and four staff, and three residents have died. The most recent was a woman in her 80s, whose passing was announced by the province Saturday. 

"It's hectic. All these people are worried. I know I am," said Nelson, who has lived at Parkview Place — located just across the street from Central Park in downtown Winnipeg — since August.

Outbreak protocols began there three weeks ago when a staff member tested positive.

Nelson said all of the residents who are positive for COVID-19 have been moved to the first floor of the building and there are no more gatherings in common spaces, like at mealtime. 

"A lot of people are confused and worried, a lot of them have family [that can't visit]... plus the main thing, because of COVID we're not allowed to go outside this gate here," he said, pointing to the gate in front of the sidewalk at the entrance to the care home. 

Parkview Place is still listed as critical on the province's website. Revera, the company that runs it, has said it's implemented outbreak protocols and ramped up infection-control practices. 

Three people have died in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at Parkview Place care home. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Nelson said since visitor restrictions came into effect, he tries to keep in touch with his son and parents by phone. He needs help with getting around as he is still recovering from a stroke, but has noticed the building is running short-staffed.

"I'm feeling OK. I get a little anxious. I get down... I feel a little ornery," he said, of recent times he's called for help. It's getting pretty lonely, he added, cooped up in his room.

"They say, we're busy, we're busy," he said of the staff at the home.

'You feel helpless'

On Tuesday, the province announced the death of a man in his 50s at Heritage Lodge, a St. James personal care home that also has a COVID-19 outbreak. There are 10 other residents who tested positive and one staff member, according to a spokesperson for Revera, which runs that home as well.

"You feel blind. And you feel helpless. And you want to just know that your loved one is safe," said Tracy Morgan, 44, whose 94-year-old grandmother lives at Heritage Lodge, an 86-bed facility. 

She said in the beginning, staff phoned families to speak to them about the cases, but now, all they receive is a call with a recording when there are new cases.

"It's very concerning, because it seems as though they haven't been able to isolate the spread. We've just been wondering, what specific additional protocols have been put in place to ensure that the residents, workers as well, our loved ones, my grandmother, is safe?"

Morgan said she was told that the residents who are positive have been moved to the second floor of the two-storey care home. Staff told her family that the outbreak started after a resident, who was originally asymptomatic, came to Heritage Lodge from the hospital.

Her grandmother, who has so far been asymptomatic and not tested, lives on the first floor and shares a room with another resident.

"It is what it is. We just want to know, what are the decisions and the strategies in order to ensure the safety and welfare of everyone who's there? Because they're not allowed to leave."

Revera did not respond to CBC's request about whether they'd provide more information to concerned families.

In light of the visitor restrictions, Morgan has even visited her grandmother outside her first storey window to call her from her cell phone.

"It's heartbreaking. She's very isolated as is. And it's the most vulnerable populations, or one of the most vulnerable populations," she said.

Tracy Morgan worries for the safety and well-being of all seniors, like her grandmother, who need protection and reassurance. (aboikis / Shutterstock)

"I can hear her voice, but in order to see her, it's very tough. And more so on her than on us," she said.

Parkview Place and Heritage Lodge are among seven personal care homes in the Winnipeg region that have COVID-19 outbreaks. Morgan said the focus needs to be on the care and well-being of all residents, like her grandmother, who are now more exposed to the virus without the same family support.

"She's doing the best she can . She's trying to keep her spirits as high as she can but she's isolated. She's depressed. She misses human contact from those that she knows and trusts."