Saskatoon care home resident reflects on life in care during COVID-19

For those in care homes, life has been vastly different through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fernande Levy says at times she felt very depressed and devastated she couldn't see her family during pandemic

Levy said staff at the care home were open to suggestions from residents about what kind of measures they would have liked to have seen in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Circle Drive Special Care Home)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for everyone — from physical distancing to new rules and regulations in place to prevent the virus from spreading further. For those in care homes, social options have been even further reduced.

Visits were outright prohibited for a period of time in some care homes in Saskatchewan, and residents' movements were severely limited in comparison to life before the pandemic. 

Fernande Levy lives in the Circle Drive Special Care Home in Saskatoon. At times, the 79-year-old said the pandemic left her feeling very depressed.

"We couldn't see our loved ones," Levy said. "Even from the window, they weren't allowed to come and it was devastating." 

Levy said staff worked hard and ensured surfaces were clean to protect the care home from COVID-19. She said no cases were reported there. (Submitted by Circle Drive Special Care Home)

She said residents of her care home weren't allowed out to shop, go on outings and their regular outdoors activities were cancelled. 

"We missed all that, but we missed more than anything in our lives were our children," Levy said.

Many of her fellow residents, Levy included, weren't eating as much as they did before the pandemic, something she attributed to being upset about not seeing their families. 

Fernande Levy said she's lived at Circle Drive Special Care Home, where she's been for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, for about three years now. (Submitted by Circle Drive Special Care Home)

Residents were eventually given an iPad or similar device to contact their families — something Levy said was better than using a telephone to stay in touch.

Virtual visits aside, the only consolation she could find in through the pandemic besides talking to her family were the books on her shelves. 

The care home organized events like dance parties, crafting, bingo and carnival games to occupy residents while they were waiting out the pandemic.

The guidelines, put in place by the Saskatchewan Health Authority early on in the pandemic, gradually changed through the Re-opening Saskatchewan plan. The most recent changes to visitation in hospitals and long-term care homes in the province came about earlier this month. 

Levy said the COVID-19 pandemic was like nothing she had experienced in her life. 

"I hope it never happens again," she said. 

'They don't see a good end in sight'

Saskatoon's Fernande Levy is a spitfire. But COVID-19 has put a huge damper on life in her senior's care home. She and her son Jeff Stromberg tell us how she's keeping. And then geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Lilian Thorpe joins us with her take on how the pandemic is harming seniors. 16:46

Dr. Lilian Thorpe, a geriatric psychiatrist based in Saskatoon, said Levy's story is common. Thorpe said the secondary effects of COVID-19 could be a crisis in their own right.

"I think senior death rates, my guess, will go up. Not because of COVID, because of the secondary things that are happening because of the COVID," she said on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

She said some seniors are experiencing extreme loneliness, not going into a doctor when they need care and eating less, something that could be caused by depression via lack of connection.

"I see a lot of people who are seniors who are not seeing family members and many of them are saying 'life isn't worthwhile' because day in, day out, it's the same," she said. 

"They don't see a good end in sight."

Thorpe said that she's seen an example of the secondary consequences of COVID first-hand. One senior she knows suffered a massive stroke and is now paralyzed after not getting help for her uncontrolled hypertension.

It's good to get back to giving care because the options when lock down was stricter were not always great, Thorpe said. Seniors she treated faced a lot of barriers like bad internet, lack of knowledge on how to download and use software, and other things. 

With files from Chelsea Laskowski and CBC Radio's The Morning Edition


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