It is becoming more and more distressing to residents of Long Term Care Homes to be kept locked up and away from families and friends for such an ongoing period of time as this pandemic has become.
These most vulnerable of our society have emotional needs that must be met in order to survive. Some of our family members have been hospitalized because the months of severe isolation have caused physical failing that has no other medical cause.
Depression among LTC residents, as measured by quality data collected monthly and reported to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, is deepening. Residents’ behaviours have become more extreme in response to PSWs and nurses who have neither time nor family relationship to give the social opportunity and emotional connection that residents so obviously need.
Programming and community contact such as choir performances, entertainment and other live interactive opportunities are additional deprivations that have been banned for months now. Spiritual needs are not being addressed. Social needs among our elderly have always been a challenging aspect of their care and with such limits imposed as we have seen to date, the seniors are withdrawing into shells of abandonment.
This does not have to happen!
Staff, including newly authorized RSAs who have no training or background in healthcare or elder care, are donning PPE and dealing with LTC residents. Families can be trained to wear PPE, visit as they are able, and provide the social and emotional support that is vital to well-being and guaranteed in the Residents Bill of Rights.
Not all residents have the same family support available to them. Not all individuals have the same cognitive recognition of the pandemic. Those who are still aware of life around them are suffering the most.
For some residents, “touch” and the physical presence of their loved ones is mandatory to their personal health. They often have no other form of communication. For families willing to meet these needs, there should be exemptions to the prison-like quality of care that is mandated at the present time.
Residents who are medically assessed as palliative are especially in need – as are their families – of contact and visits. Palliative means one is no longer fighting disease and instead needs comfort and emotional support. These individuals need family contact as much as do those who are “end of life”. The pandemic should not dictate that we cut residents off from their families.
The state of emergency has dictated harsh penalties for our loved elders for long enough.
We can do better.
Families can be taught to wear PPE and observe infection control. We can make guidelines to deal with residents in special cases or with extenuating circumstances. We are a first world country with knowledgeable people and a strong social conscience. We cannot leave people to live their last months in isolation and die alone.
Help us help our Seniors!