Visitors can soon return to care homes

Long-term care and senior living communities in South Delta are looking forward to welcoming visitors back into their facilities, but they caution that it will still take some time to iron out all the details.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced an easing of restrictions on visits that have been in place since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities will now be allowed one designated visitor to come to the home and visit in a designated visiting space.

Henry said there would be province-wide requirements for visits. First, facilities can have no active cases. Second, there must be a written safety plan at each facility, including pre-booking for visits. Third, visitors will be required to wear a mask and facility staff will train them how to use it properly.

Tests will not be required for visitors, noted Henry, when asked by media. “It’s not something we need right now,” she said, adding the most important thing is for visitors to self-monitor their symptoms and to stay away if they have any. As well, visitors should maintain heightened hygiene.

In addition to family and friend visits Henry said personal care service providers, such as hairdressers, would also be allowed into homes, with guidance from the facility’s safety plan.

Janice Miller from Bria Communities, which operates The Waterford and Wexford in Tsawwassen said the announcement is great news, but it doesn't mean The Waterford and The Wexford are throwing open their doors right away.

“As operators, we expected this announcement, but did not receive any information beforehand,” said Miller. “There are precise expectations from the Ministry of Health that we must implement, and it will take some time to get things organized and develop a safety plan. While family members will be anxious to visit their loved ones, and vice versa, we are not ready yet. In the next days, we will need to consider additional staffing; we need to add significant monitoring and cleaning protocols and define indoor visiting areas much more clearly.”

Miller said once all plans are in place visits will be scheduled in advance and within a set times, as well, visitors must comply with prescreening and PPE requirements.

“We look forward to families and residents reuniting in a meaningful way very soon, but we have to do it safely and with caution to ensure we remain COVID-19 free,” she said. “We ask residents and families for their patience and support as we start to ‘open our doors’ a little more.”

The same precautions and plans are also being worked out at KinVillage in Tsawwassen.

“We're pleased that the government has acknowledged the importance of visits for the quality of life of residents living in long-term care homes and assisted living residences, while at the same time keeping important safety protocols in place,” said KinVillage CEO Donna Ellis. “We've seen first-hand how difficult the restrictions have been for residents and for their loved ones.

We're pleased that in addition to continuing with virtual visits, residents and their loved ones will soon be able to again visit face-to-face. At the same time, we're cautious because we know there are risks in loosening the restrictions.

“We're grateful for the understanding and patience of our residents and their families as we carefully consider how to put the new guidelines and appropriate resources in place. With their help, we'll achieve the goal of keeping KinVillage COVID-19 free.”

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