Families worry about mental health of loved-ones in care-home lockdowns

When Ian Pitfield visits his wife at South Granville Park Lodge care home, he stands and waves at her third floor window from the street. It’s been this way for 77 days.

“I last saw my wife Ebie on March 14,” Pitfield told CTV News Vancouver. “She was in quarantine here for 40 days because she was diagnosed on April 10 with COVID.”

The retired judge said his wife’s infection was “relatively mild.” Ebie has Alzheimer’s, and Pitfield said she moved to the care home in March 2019 and has since made friends and made the place her home.

“My wife is typical of everyone who winds up with dementia,” he said. “The once wonderful, beautiful personality that was known to so many of us ceases to be that.”

Pitfield told CTV News the care staff at the facility are “absolutely wonderful,” but that since physical distancing rules began in the middle of March, he worries Ebie’s mental health is suffering.

That’s why Tuesday he wrote a letter addressed to Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“I think they should change the protocol relating to the management of residents who have COVID,” Pitfield said. He’s not alone in wanting that.

Mike Cavers’ mother-in-law, Vera Davidson, also lives at South Granville Park Lodge. She’s 96 and fought for Britain in the Second World War as part of the women’s airforce.

In January, after getting an infection, she began having delusions, so Cavers said the family moved her to the home.

Just a couple months later, “the pandemic hit and suddenly we were not allowed to see her anymore,” he said. “Her mental health is spiraling downhill because of this isolation.”

The two family members worry part of the problem is that neither woman has been able to go for a walk outside. They are confined to their rooms and only seeing staff wearing full suits of personal protective equipment.

“Staff at South Granville Park Lodge are trying their hardest under really, really trying conditions to do the best they can,“ said Cavers. “They’re following the protocols of (Vancouver) Coastal Health, who are following the protocols of the (provincial) Ministry (of Health).”

Cavers wants the province to consider the mental health of care-home residents.

“At this point, can we not take a step back and say now there are other priorities as well?” He asked.

In his letter, Pitfield asks that the province consider sending those who test positive for COVID-19 to one of the hospital beds the province freed up in response to the pandemic.

Alternatively, they could be sent somewhere else “where they can be cared for without jeopardizing the safety and security of the other residents in the lodge.”

And, he said, residents should get to take walks outside.

“Once there’s a case of covid, everyone gets locked down and is that fair? There are over 100 residents in this lodge,” he said.

On Tuesday, Henry was asked about some care homes reopening, or working to allow residents time outside. She said they are working on guidelines, but it’s a challenge.

“It varies so much by facility, both what's happening in the facility, the staffing, the numbers of people, and of course the outbreaks that we continue to have,” the provincial health officer explained. “So, the challenge really is to ensure that we protect the entire community in a way that does the best that we can.”

Henry went on to say that she doesn’t want to “give the impression that we aren’t thinking of this and the timeline really is as short as we possibly can (make it).”

Pitfield wants the province to reflect from this pandemic, and if there’s a second wave, to adjust the way residents with COVID-19 and without it are managed.

Ian Pitfield's full letter to health officials is embedded below.


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