Social distancing in long-term care: did it cause more harm than good?
There is no denying that long-term care homes have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail released a sobering article on the impact social isolation has had on Canada’s long-term care and nursing homes, citing that approximately 82% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.
Now, family members and advocates for Elders are learning that banning visitors from nursing homes could have inadvertently created negative consequences for residents. Prior to social distancing restrictions having been put into place, relatives and private caregivers were often-times relied upon at mealtimes. Through banning visitors, already short-staffed facilities lost the extra assistance provided by family members and private caregivers.
CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, is receiving concerning reports that some residents are not being fed, with mealtimes forgotten.
This is especially concerning given the risks that extreme temperatures bring as the summer months approach. Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (“ACE”) explains that Ontario’s most recent design standards for new long-term care homes (last updated in 2015), still do not require rooms to be air conditioned, only common areas. For more on the difficulties extreme temperatures pose for residents and front-line workers alike, see here.
Heather Keller, who researches nutrition and aging at the University of Waterloo explained further difficulties social isolation poses to residents’ nutrition, especially those with cognitive impairments. When eating alone, residents tend to consume less, as they are not exposed to important social cues they would otherwise get if eating in a dining room setting.
Families and seniors’ organizations are calling on Ontario (and other provinces) to relax restrictions on visits, citing the risks to residents’ physical and mental health.
For more on our coverage of COVID-19’s impacts on long-term care, please see links to the below blogs:
Finally, for information on the Residents’ Bill of Rights within Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 see Stuart Clark and Doreen So’s podcast here.
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