A Hamiota personal-care home resident is upset after being told she can’t have supper with her daughter as COVID-19 cases surge across the province.
Irene Armitage, 95, lives at Birch Lodge Personal Care Home. She says she was recently told her daughter, Debra, can’t take her mask off when she visits and so the two can’t eat together.
"I’m almost 96 now. I feel that the time I have left is being stolen from me. I can’t see my grandkids either, or my great-grandkids," she said.
Debra, who is a designated family caregiver, normally visits on Fridays, Irene said, and she makes the three-hour drive from Winnipeg. The two regularly have dinner together during the afternoon visit.
The rule about visitors not taking masks off is new and wasn’t in place in previous waves of the pandemic, Armitage said. Tables in the dining room have also been separated six feet apart.
"It’s all so frustrating for everybody, for the staff, for the people who have to come and tell me I can’t eat with my daughter anymore."
Debra said she was notified of the change in policy in an email. She says she doesn’t think the change is fair as she has to go hours without anything to drink when visiting her mother.
"It annoys me. It doesn’t make sense to me," Debra said.
"I was a nurse … I understand the concept. They’ve been very diligent and they haven’t had a single case of COVID in the [Birch] Lodge and that’s a good thing and I’m willing to do that, but it just seems after almost two years, they’re piling on more restrictions."
Previously, Debra said she would eat dinner with Armitage in her room. She would get a hot dog or hamburger from a local drive-in or egg rolls from a Chinese restaurant.
The move to prevent visitors from taking off masks and eating is about keeping residents, visitors, and staff safe, Prairie Mountain Health CEO Brian Schoonbaert said in an email.
"As of January 11th, new guidelines indicate no shared meals. The Designated family caregivers can visit while a resident is eating, however, at this time we are not allowing the designated family caregivers to eat at the same time as the residents," Schoonbaert’s email reads.
"Designated family caregivers must wear their eyewear and masks during their interactions with PCH residents. With significant community transmission of the virus and the high risk activity of eating and drinking (which requires the removal of PPE), we are not able to permit shared meals between residents and families at this time."
Social visits are currently suspended at personal-care homes, according to a Dec. 31, 2021, notice on Prairie Mountain Health’s website. Designated family caregivers — like Debra — still have to show proof of vaccination before each visit
But it’s still an issue for Debra. While other residents at Birch Lodge have family who can make shorter visits, she said she is the only visitor who stays for multiple hours at a time.
"I’m trying to go with the flow, I’m trying to take the position that they’re doing all this stuff for the best of the residents," she said.
The isolation of the pandemic is especially tough for people in personal-care homes, Debra said. Their options for getting out are already limited and entertainment has been scaled back.
"The residents are having a lot of trouble with the isolation and this is just one more thing," she said.
While Debra says she still intends to visit her mother every Friday, the two haven’t decided yet what they will do during the visits.
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