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B.C. seniors advocate wants change in care home visits during pandemic

British Columbia’s seniors advocate says health restrictions limiting visits at long-term care and assisted living facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be revised to allow more visitors.

Isobel Mackenzie makes the recommendations after the release of a survey today that reflects the experiences of 13,000 residents and family members during the pandemic.

She says the report includes numerous accounts from family members who have not seen loved ones for months due to limits on the number of people allowed to visit care facilities.

Mackenzie’s report also recommends allowing longer and more frequent visits to balance the long-term risk to the health of residents caused by lengthy family separations.

She says while there have been 151 COVID-19 deaths in B.C. care facilities during the pandemic, 4,500 residents have died of other causes, with many spending their final days in isolation from their families.

Mackenzie says her report also highlights increases in the use of antipsychotic medication during the pandemic and more cases of weight loss, poor mood and signs of depression.

She says B.C. acted swiftly to restrict visits at care facilities following early COVID-19 outbreaks last spring and the restrictions on visits were eased during the summer, but after nine months an increase in the number of visits should be considered.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said it is spending $160 million to hire 2,400 more staff to increase safe visits, among other things.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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