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Many long term care residents have not left their room for over a year

Posted: April 8, 2021

(March 31, 2021)

By: Donald Macdonald, Sudbury Star

Many people in Ontario’s long term care homes have been living in isolation for over a year.

Despite government promises to spend your tax dollars on more and better, the situation for residents in LTC has never been worse.

On the same day that a new report came down about Canada’s terrible track record with LTC deaths during COVID — we’re essentially the worst among wealthy nations — a press conference was held to demand an end to the lockdown of LTC facilities.

Despite now being vaccinated and living in homes where there is no COVID whatsoever, residents still cannot leave their rooms — even to walk in the hallway.

The press conference Tuesday was organized by residents, families and advocates; speakers included Sandra Caleta, spokesperson for Voices of LTC and Advocates for Long-Term Care Reform in Ontario; Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition; Jane Meadus, lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly; and Dr. Amit Arya, palliative care physician and Board Member of the Ontario Health Coalition.

And the conference included heart-rending testimonials from residents and their essential family caregivers.  Alfred Borg, who lives in a Newmarket LTC home, spoke about his daily reality.

He and his fellow residents have been confined to their rooms for months, with no outlet for exercise of any kind.  “All day long we sit in our rooms, wasting away.” He’s had pneumonia twice in six months.

There is no COVID in his building. All the residents have been vaccinated.

And yet they can’t leave their rooms. Borg hasn’t been outside in a year.

He hasn’t even been allowed to shower in six months — only sponge baths in his room.

Michelle Morriseau, whose mother is in a home in Thunder Bay, said her mother has been out only once in a year — for her husband’s funeral.

Morriseau wept as she recounted how she, their daughter, was locked out as a caregiver, leaving her 88 year old father to take over her mother’s daily care. He died in February.

After his funeral, her mother was put into isolation for nine days because she’d left the building.

“She’s so different when she’s outside. She’s so bright and interested in everything. How can you take that away from an elder?”

Her mother has likewise been denied baths and showers.

Chuck Ferkranus, another LTC resident, asked a simple question.

“What will it take for this to come to an end? Every resident and worker has been vaccinated. No one has COVID in this building and yet we cannot leave our rooms. We’re served our meals in styrofoam boxes with plastic knives and forks. I haven’t been able to shower for months. What does it take?”

Dr. Amit Arya said the science is clear: the risk of spread is less outside than inside; “What is the point of vaccinating residents if they can’t go out?  The operators and the government make decisions that are contrary to logic and to science.

“Social isolation and loneliness is an epidemic with seniors and it makes them more likely to die early. Cognitive function declines, appetite declines, they become more susceptible to illness and infection.”

Lawyer Jane Meadus said that since March of last year, over 150,000 residents have been detained illegally in their residence. Maybe it made sense at first, but now they’re all vaccinated.

“This is a human rights abuse and an abuse of the elderly. We want a clear directive from the province to the homes, banning this kind of unlawful detention.”

Natalie Mehra said the government has listened to the industry rather to residents and their families.

“That was evident when they acted to shield the industry from law suits, and in the choices not to improve staffing levels. The homes are severely understaffed. They don’t want to staff up — it’s easier to keep people in their rooms.”

And now families have to beg the government to allow their seniors to go outside.

“We have received hundreds of communications from families who want a chance for life before it is too late. It is appalling. It is beyond appalling.

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