Nova Scotia

More details coming soon about long-term care homes reopening in Nova Scotia

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Health Department said details related to long-term care for phases 2, 3 and 4 are being finalized and more information will come soon. Details so far only pertain to outdoor visits.

Reopening plan only contains details so far about outdoor visits with residents

Peter Out visits his mother Johanna Out at Normanna Living in Burnaby, B.C., on the first day of new visitation rules that allow touching at long-term care homes. Families in Nova Scotia are awaiting further details about the reopening plan here. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As Nova Scotia's reopening plan begins, different people are looking forward to different things. For Erin Ritchie, it's the chance for more family gatherings with her grandmother.

The Yarmouth resident's 95-year-old grandmother lives in a long-term care home. While Ritchie and her mother are listed as designated caregivers, which means they've been able to have in-person visits with her grandmother, the rest of the family has had to rely on technology and virtual visits for most of the last year.

When the province's reopening plan was released last week, it contained only limited information about long-term care homes. In Phase 1, fully-vaccinated residents can have outdoor visits. In Phase 4, outdoor visits will be possible for residents who are not fully vaccinated.

The lack of further details has some people wondering when they'll be able to do other things, such as bringing loved ones for outings.

Talks continue between Public Health and sector

Michele Lowe, managing director of the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, said talks are ongoing within the sector and with Public Health officials about how to reopen, but details need to be finalized.

She said it's key that everything required to safely reopen is in place before families are invited back into homes.

"There is preparation work and I guess I look at that similar to education," she said.

"You can't just open schools the next day; there's a bit of preparation that's required for teachers and administrators to get ready to welcome students back and it's the same in long-term care."

A spokesperson for the Health Department said details related to long-term care for phases 2, 3 and 4 are being finalized and more information will come soon.

Double vaccination provides added protection

Lowe said having reached the point where residents and staff have both doses of COVID-19 vaccine makes a big difference because it provides "a tremendous amount of peace of mind" for families, residents and staff.

Evidence from other jurisdictions in Canada where residents have received both shots shows a dramatic decrease in infections in homes as well as severity levels, she said.

"They have been able to tie that significant decline to the fact that those residents received their second doses," Lowe said.

None of this has been easy on families, but Ritchie said she's thankful her grandmother is now fully vaccinated and staff at her long-term care home have done a good job keeping her safe.

Despite lockdowns and restrictions, life has not stood still for Ritchie's family in the last year. She and her brother have each had new children and they're hoping soon those new additions to the family will get proper in-person introductions to their great grandmother.

"The hope is that the other members of our family who are not caregivers will get to see a little more of her," she said.