Seniors suffering from total isolation in B.C. care homes

Seniors suffering from total isolation in B.C. care homes with months-long COVID-19 outbreaks, families say

‘It feels like they’re in a prison,’ says daughter of resident in Abbotsford facility

Sandy Roberts has been confined to her room at Menno Home in Abbotsford, B.C., since Nov. 18, 2020, when the facility went on lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak. (Leila Emery)

Eva Uguen-Csenge · CBC News · Posted: Jan 08, 2021
[Excerpts] Family members are worried the COVID-19 outbreaks that have put long-term care facilities on lockdown since November and kept seniors isolated in their rooms are having a worse effect on their loved ones than the virus itself would.

Leila Emery says her 76-year-old mother, Sandy Roberts, has been locked in her room 24 hours a day since an outbreak was declared at Menno Home on Nov. 18 after a resident was exposed in acute care.

Since then, 42 out of 45 residents have tested positive at the long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., and 12 of them have passed away. There are currently three active cases remaining.

Menno Home has confirmed that residents are not allowed to leave their rooms or socialize in any way while the outbreak is ongoing.

Emery said that means she can’t stay in touch at all with her mother, who is hard of hearing and can’t communicate by phone or video call.

“I’m worried that she thinks we’ve abandoned her based on the fact that we can’t talk to her on the phone,” she said. “It feels like they’re in a prison, like they’re locked inside the room. They cannot leave. They cannot have visitors.

Johanna Trimble, who works on the Doctors of B.C. geriatrics and palliative care subcommittee with Chung, says having families visit is one of the only ways to know what’s going on inside care homes.

“If there’s difficulties with care and if there are unsafe practices going on, it’s not going to be management giving that information to families,” she said. “But family members are going to be aware of those kinds of problems because they keep a pretty close eye on the condition of their family member and they know if things have changed for the worse.” 

Families have complained about the lack of transparency in how facilities are responding to outbreaks as the death toll climbs at care homes like Little Mountain Place in Vancouver.