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South Delta’s seniors’ care facilities determined to weather Omicron storm

Long-term care and assisted living facilities have updated their visitor policies
The Waterford in Tsawwassen.

It’s more important than ever to support seniors in long-term care and assisted living facilities, says KinVillage’s Chief Executive Officer Dan Levitt, and he can see just how determined South Delta is to do exactly that.

This sentiment is echoed by Janice Miller, manager of marketing and community relations at Bria Communities, which operates Tsawwassen’s independent living and long-term care communities The Waterford and The Wexford.

“People want to keep each other safe, and they want to be safe [themselves] ... Our residents, they’re living in a community together, and there’s a real comradery there. It’s like being part of a family,” says Miller.

In line with the latest provincial health orders announced on Dec. 21, visitors 12-years and older entering long-term care and assisted living facilities, are required to test negative on an administered rapid point-of-care test prior to visiting.

They also must provide proof of full vaccination.

Importantly, only essential visitors and, as of Jan. 4, one designated social visitor, are permitted at long-term care facilities, while all visitors continue to be permitted at assisted living facilities.

“Essential visits include visits for compassionate reasons, such as end-of-life care or those essential to a resident’s care and mental wellbeing,” explains B.C.’s provincial and regional restrictions website.

Each long-term care facility will then evaluate which visitors qualify as essential.

“People living in care, they are toward the end of their life, and why we exist at KinVillage is to help them live life to the fullest, so, we do want to see as much normalcy as possible, and the measures that we put into place are exactly so that we can celebrate life together ... because it’s a really sacred time,” says Levitt.

The latest requirements are layered on top of existing precautions like mask-wearing in common spaces or, for some facilities like KinVillage and Augustine House, during the entire visit, as well as practicing good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

Despite the restrictions fluctuating throughout the pandemic, Executive Director of Augustine House Jackie Reiners agrees that their residents remain “on board” with adhering to the new protocols.

“We have such good uptake with the vaccine ... We have people who believe in the science and are willing to step up and do what they need to do,” says Reiners.

As visitor restrictions heighten, the B.C. Liberals put out a press release on Jan. 4, calling for the government to ensure that every long-term care resident within the province is permitted to have at least one essential visitor.

“Now that visiting restrictions are once again in place, it is absolutely vital the NDP makes it clear that every resident can have at least one essential visitor, regardless of the care home in which they reside. We are calling on the Minister of Health to make this decision as soon as possible and ensure the wellbeing of our vulnerable seniors as we continue to fight COVID-19,” said Shirley Bond, Interim Leader of the Official Opposition.