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‘Hugs are back’: Advocates welcome reduced restrictions in LTC homes

Last Updated May 4, 2021 at 10:29 pm EDT

A long-term care home. (Photo by Jonas Güttler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

After over a year without hugs, visits, and daily activities, seniors locked up in long-term care will no longer be confined to their rooms 24-7.

The province is easing COVID-19 restrictions on homes, allowing residents to eat together and gather in groups inside.

Fully-vaccinated residents and their caregivers will also be able to hug and touch again, a relief for many families craving interaction.

“We were hearing people reach states of depression that were so profound that they were saying I’d rather be dead than have to live like this,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national seniors advocacy organization. “It is something for them to live for.”

But while the shutdown is in effect, the Ministry of Long-Term Care told 680 NEWS, visits will still be limited to designated caregivers only, including a maximum of one caregiver per resident at a time.

“We recognize the important role families and loved ones play in providing caregiving and emotional support to residents in long-term care homes,” the ministry said in a statement. “Our visitor policy helps ensure visiting practices, including for essential caregivers, are consistent across long-term care homes.”

The ministry added homes are to create opportunities for caregivers to be with loved ones outside of the resident’s room, including walks outdoors or inside the home.

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However, as Tamblyn Watts pointed out, the new rules won’t come into effect right away. She noted directives that come from the ministry are often in conflict with local public health, sometimes leading to confusion.

“The other piece is we’ve seen homes say, well we think the directive is a maximum standard,” she said. “We’re concerned that homes will make up their own rules and that the ministry won’t be there to help to enforce this.”

About 95 per cent of LTC residents have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s about time they get some freedoms back, said Tamblyn Watts.

“We can never lock people up like this again. It has been a cruel thing to do, so this is a glimmer of hope in the right direction.”

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