Will COVID-19 vaccinations bring fresh air to some Caledon seniors after months of isolation?
Posted: May 5, 2021
(May 4, 2021)
By: Alexandra Heck, Caledon Enterprise
The closest Inge Hoare has gotten to her 98-year-old mother, Marie Placzek, in the past year is through the window of Placzek’s room at King Nursing Home in Bolton.
“She’s one of the lucky ones,” Hoare said, noting that they wouldn’t be able to have window visits if Placzek didn’t live on the ground floor.
She says Placzek enjoys being at the home, but the months of COVID-19 restrictions are wearing her out.
“I think she’s fed up,” Hoare said, adding that they are hoping to be able to have some sort of outdoor visit as the weather gets warmer.
Her daughter and niece have applied to be caregivers and take COVID-19 tests regularly to make visits to the home.
The cranks to open windows have been removed from rooms at the King Nursing Home after a woman fell from a third-storey window in 2011.
Hoare said her daughter brought a handle from home to crack open the window for a little fresh air. It made the day for Placzek, said Hoare.
King Nursing Home experienced a COVID-19 outbreak in December 2020 that was resolved in February, says Janice King, executive director of the home.
“The isolation of the residents was a large concern for the staff and for the families, and heartbreaking,” King said. “We, as staff, know the effect the regional lockdowns have had on ourselves, but we understand it and we get to go home after work.”
She said that the restrictions were particularly difficult for those living with dementia, who may not have understood what was happening.
Staff helped residents have video calls with family, doorway conversations, videos and other activities.
“We could see the effects on their mental health: their loneliness, their depression,” King said. “Many times, managers and supervisors would be on the units and observe the emotions on the faces of both residents and staff.”
The Ontario Health Coalition has been calling on the province to ensure residents are getting opportunities to go outside.
“It just cannot go on like this, people are really suffering,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, who added that in her 25 years of advocacy for seniors, she’s never seen anything like this. “We’re furious and we’re heartbroken for people in this situation.”
The group held an online news conference to highlight what seniors are facing inside care homes during the pandemic, sharing firsthand stories from residents and families.
“We just sit in our rooms, wasting away,” said 83-year-old Alfred Borg, a Newmarket resident.
“The government has stripped us of our human dignity and our human rights.”
Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician, spoke as well, pointing out that the risk of spreading COVID-19 was lower outside, and many residents had already been vaccinated.
“Quality of life is so important,” he said. “It can’t just be all about infection control.”
At the Abbeyfield home in Caledon, board chair Joe McReynolds says there should be a serious conversation about the future of care following the pandemic.
“Personally, I’d like to see our society move to a much smaller residential system,” he said, explaining that in the Netherlands, there are cluster communities where seniors live together, supporting one another and maintaining autonomy. “I don’t think the current model is the right model.”
At Abbeyfield, the home hired a support worker to help residents who were really struggling with loneliness.
“It definitely varies by individual resident,” McReynolds said, explaining that the most social people have struggled more than others.
He said it all came back to the balance of weighing the needs of an individual against the collective issues at hand.
King says that her home would be looking to welcome visitors on the grounds when provincial restrictions ease. Meanwhile, they are planning gardening and outdoor group activities as the weather gets nicer.
For the time being, Hoare says it’s the little things that can bring her mother the most joy.
Her mother called Hoare, ecstatic at being offered the opportunity to take a shower, after having sponge baths inside of her room while a portion of the home was in an outbreak.
“She was so happy, she just sounded over the moon,” Hoare said.