Day 6

Excitement and caution as Ontario long-term care homes open their doors to visitors

As the Ontario government begins to allow visitors at long-term care centres, Amanda Lang-Crawford and her grandmother are balancing the excitement of being able to see each other in person with their worries about a pandemic that's far from over.

'I definitely plan on giving her the biggest hug possible,' Amanda Lang-Crawford says of visiting grandmother

Left to right: Irene Lang, her granddaughter Amanda and daughter Michele. (Submitted by Amanda Lang-Crawford)
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Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amanda Lang-Crawford couldn't celebrate her high school graduation with her family, including her beloved grandmother.

With the ceremony postponed to the fall, Lang-Crawford instead got her cap and gown and headed to the dining hall window of her grandmother's retirement home in Grimsby, Ont.

"Going to see my grandma in my graduation gear was so emotional for me, because it's the one thing that I wish she could have came to," Crawford, 18, told Day 6.

It was a moment filled with tears — of happiness, but also perhaps of melancholy at the unusual conditions of the visit — on both sides of that window.

"We were all crying; even the waitresses were crying. We're that type of people," said Crawford's grandmother, Irene Lang.

Amanda Lang-Crawford visits her grandmother in her high school graduation gown. Her graduation ceremony has been postponed until the fall, but she didn't want to miss celebrating with her grandmother. (Submitted by Amanda Lang-Crawford)

Before the pandemic, Lang-Crawford and her mother would visit Lang at Lincoln Park Retirement Residence several times a week. For the grandmother-granddaughter duo, who describe each other as best friends, the lockdown has been especially challenging.

Lincoln Park Retirement Residence hasn't allowed any indoor visitors since March, despite being COVID-free.

Lang-Crawford has been able to visit while keeping a distance, driving to the home and stopping outside Lang's room, where she would wave from the balcony. Other times, they see each other from either side of a window, and speak to each other through microphones and a wire strung through the sliding doors.

Irene Lang speaks to visitors with a dual microphone setup through the window of her retirement home in Guelph, Ont. (Submitted by Amanda Lang-Crawford)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that beginning this week, people will be allowed to visit long-term care homes and retirement homes that don't have COVID-19 outbreaks — with some strict regulations.

All visitors must have tested negative for the novel coronavirus in the past two weeks, complete a health questionnaire, and during the visit, must wear a face mask or covering, maintain a safe physical distance, and wash or disinfect their hands.

"I am so ecstatic. I have absolutely no words," Lang-Crawford said of the news.

"[When] the news came out the other day, all I did was cry because it's the one person that I would just absolutely love could give [her] a huge hug for no matter how long I can."

Lang praised the level of care and precautions her home's staff have been taking during the pandemic. Residents can still gather to play games and watch television as long as everyone maintains physical distancing guidelines.

During meals, servers wear plastic gloves, and make sure everyone washes their hands before and after eating. And a local priest sends a tape with a recording of a mass, in lieu of making in-person visits.

"I feel that the manager we have is dead on with everything. He's very good, very communicative, and he sends letters to us maybe once a week about what's happening [and] what's not happening," said Lang.

Even still, Lang-Crawford isn't taking any precautions lightly.

"I am kind of nervous, because I know I've been outside and I know I've been working around other people," she said.

As long as she tests negative however, Lang-Crawford looks forward to visiting her grandmother because she knows how isolating an experience the lockdown has been for Lang and seniors like her.

"I definitely plan on giving her the biggest hug possible, even if it's half an hour long. I would love just a big bear hug, and that's all I could ever ask for right now," she said, beaming.


Written by Jonathan Ore with files from CBC News. Produced by Laurie Allan.

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