Nova Scotia

Protesters want long-term care homes to make visits easier

Family members of long-term care residents in Nova Scotia took to the streets of Wolfville on Saturday demanding greater access to their loved ones.

Province eased some restrictions earlier this month

Beverley Harris said her 93-year-old mother doesn't want to feel like a prisoner. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Family members of long-term care residents in Nova Scotia took to the streets of Wolfville on Saturday demanding greater access to their loved ones.

That is in spite of the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions by the province.  

Beverley Harris, one of the protesters, said the months of isolation are taking a toll on her 93-year-old mother at Wolfville Elms. 

"She has said to her family physician, she has said to many members of our family including me, 'I want to go to sleep and not wake up, I am living in jail,'" Harris said. 

She said she's still only allowed to see her mother outside for 30 minutes a week.

Protesters want easier access to family members. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Harris is not alone. 

Dozens of supporters, accompanied by a drummer, chanted as they marched along Main Street to the town's clock.

The slogans on their placards read, "Doesn't mental health apply to seniors?" and "Remove restrictions to visitation!"

The province relaxed some restrictions on visits to nursing homes earlier this month. 

Residents are allowed to have two family members designated as caregivers who would essentially have free access. 

Holly Crooks says not easing restrictions at some homes is an abuse of power. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Despite the province's easing of restrictions, some homes are choosing to maintain the previous restrictions.

According to Michele Lowe, managing director of the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, they cite a myriad of reasons, including safety concerns, insurance and staffing issues

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey, speaking to CBC Radio this week on the easing of restrictions, said it is up each home "for the implementation that works within their site based upon their residents and their family members."

"But that's consistent with what caregiver environments would have been like pre-COVID," he said.

Catherine Johnston's 92-year-old father is at Camp Hill. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Leaving implementation up to individual homes doesn't sit well with Holly Crooks.

Her 90-year-old mother, Yvonne, is a resident of Northwood. Crooks said while that care facility is working with family members to make access to residents easier and more fulfilling, others aren't.

"Directors of smaller long-term care homes who have stated publicly that they don't intend to implement any easing and the government can't make them ... that's certainly an abuse of power in my opinion ... and a lack of compassion."

Catherine Johnstone's 92-year-old father, a veteran of the Second World War, is at Camp Hill. 

Johnstone said while the staff there have worked with her family and others to improve visitation, seniors at some other homes are being deprived of family visits. 

Protesters called for easier access to family members in long-term care. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

She said the isolation is putting the life and physical well-being of those seniors at risk. 

"As a result, many of these people are going to see no change. They are going to continue to live in isolation. It's now been six months. We're now moving into [the seventh month] and it's against their human right to a quality of life."

Crooks said the province needs to do better.

"I know that politicians want to do good work and they believe they're making the best choices," Crooks said. "But they're not doing the best work here in Nova Scotia.

"I do hope that we will see them find a way to ensure that the easing of restrictions are universal in the province."

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Vernon Ramesar

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Vernon Ramesar is a reporter and video and radio journalist originally based in Trinidad. He now lives in Halifax.

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