'There were smiles everywhere': Restrictions loosened at long term care homes

The majority of residents in long-term care homes have had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for months, now they can reap the benefits.

Families are now able to visit loved ones inside the homes and have up to 10 visitors outside.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” says Riverview Gardens resident Auberte Cattoor. “I never laugh for a year. Laughing like this feels good.”

Residents of Riverview Gardens in Chatham enjoyed an old fashioned water balloon fight Wednesday.

“I love throwing water balloons,” resident Jim Sharp shared. “I like to see them splash on other people’s clothes.”

It’s been more than year since residence have been able to socialize together in the courtyard.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to have a small group activity like that where people can come downstairs and actually have some fun. That was so heartwarming to see that happening,” says Riverview Gardens senior services director Mary Alice Searles.

As of Wednesday, rules relaxed further at long term care homes across the province.

“We are so excited that restrictions are lifting for long-term care,” Searles says. “This is really a huge day for us. It’s been 16 months that we’ve been in lockdown more or less and it’s been a long haul for people so we are super excited that we can have visitors coming in.”

Susan Hewings says it has been “highly emotional” to see her 91-year-old mother Patricia again for the first time in nine months, this time with a special guest.

“This is the first time she was able to meet her youngest great grandson, Emerson. she was thrilled to do that. it was a good experience for her and for Emerson as well,” Hewings says.

After three months of being closed, the home’s hair salon also reopened for business.

“There were several people lined up for haircuts. And they looked fantastic after they got their haircuts and there were smiles everywhere,” Searles says.

She says she is looking forward to the province moving into Step 3 to open even further.

“This is really a trial,” she says. “We are able to gradually open up by step three will be able to have more visitors come in at a time, we’ll be able to have family style eating.”

“We really look forward to things getting back to some kind of normal.”