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Calgary families rethinking long term care facilities post COVID-19

Tamara Riley said she’s grateful that her mom is able to live with family instead of in a nursing home. 

Alberta’s long-term care facilities have been hit especially hard during the province’s COVID-19 pandemic. Alberta Health Minister, Tyler Shandro said more than 70 per cent of Alberta’s COVID-19 related deaths have been in long-term care facilities.

“The reality is that these residents are vulnerable to the pandemic and they’ll continue to be until there is an effective vaccine to be found,” Shandro said at a May 19 coronavirus briefing.

Riley’s parents had been living at Silvera for Seniors for about a year and decided to pull them out in November 2019 when she noticed their health was deteriorating. 

Even before the risk of COVID-19, the couple weren’t thrilled with their living situation. 

“They just didn’t like it. They felt too restricted, it was so regimented. The meals, they would have to go down at specific times and sit with the same people all the time, there was really no flexibility there,” said Riley. 

Riley’s father passed away in December of last year.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise moving them out when we did,” she said.

Underlying conditions are a concern

Riley’s mother suffers from COPD and a heart condition, which puts her at higher risk for COVID-19.

As for right now, she doesn’t see herself putting her mother back into assisted living.

“If she was ever to go into the hospital and the doctor recommended that she get nursing care, I think we would explore the option of home care before we would put her in a nursing home,” she said. 

Elana Legotin is in a tough position, her mother lives in assisted living – in Russia.

Although she said she wishes her mom could be here in Canada, she’s very happy with the care she’s receiving in Russia. 

Despite being a 10 hour phone call away, she said she feels more safe having her being taken care of in Russia.

“I would be definitely more concerned if she would be here in a nursing home,” Legotin said.

“The numbers have been really low [in her nursing home] which makes me happy. My mother has diabetes and problems with her thyroid.”

Feeling locked-in, safety precautions

Legotin said there has only been one case of COVID-19 at her mother’s facility. She said it’s likely due to their safety precautions. 

“This particular facility and has so many rules, so many restrictions. They can’t even go out for a walk, they can get some fresh air but they’re not allowed past the fence,” she said. 

She said social distancing measures are being taken seriously at the home.

Her brother stopped by with cake and flowers in April. He was only allowed to see their mother from a distance and the gifts were taken by security.

Despite the seemingly strict new rules, Legotin said she’s happy with the decisions the facility is making.

Riley’s mother-in-law lives at Manors Village here in Calgary and said they have started to ease their safety precautions.

“They finally relaxed a little bit on the meals. They were doing tray service to the apartments. Now they’re letting them come down to the dining room for meals now,” she said.

“I think seating maybe two people together and they’re staggering it.”

Long term care locations maintain safety precautions, some relaxation of rules

McKenzie Towne Long Term Care REVERA WEBSITE

Earlier this month, the provincial government announced $170 million in funding to support seniors facilities.

The $14 million-per-month funding will be used to improve staffing levels and pay for protective supplies within the care facilities.

Carewest health care center’s have been following similar health and safety measures throughout their facilities. This has meant no visitors and the mandatory use of PPE.

James Wood from Alberta Health Services said that Carewest has slowly begun loosening these measures.

“We are now allowing select visitors who can provide essential quality-of-life care to visit with their loved ones in our outdoor spaces,” he said.

He said they are quick to inform families if an outbreak forces the postponement of visits.

“We know that seniors are at greatest risk of severe illness related to COVID-19. This means that we have to do all we can to protect them, while also ensuring our seniors continue to get the care and support they need,” he said.

McKenzie Towne operator the subject of proposed class action lawsuit

On May 6, Dr. Rhonda Collins, Chief Medical Officer at Revera Inc. said the company is doing their best to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

“We are in a crisis unlike anything we have seen before, and we in seniors’ care have had to adapt quickly and continuously based on emerging knowledge and public health guidance,” she said. 

On May 12, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Revera Inc. by James H. Brown and Associates and Guardian Law.

The law firm has stated it wants “bring justice to the mishandling of this pandemic.”

In a media statement posted May 13, Revera acknowledge the class action, but said it couldn’t comment.

“That said, as we are sure you can appreciate, since this is a matter before the courts, we will not be able to speak to the specifics of the lawsuit, but we can say that we will approach it as we do any situation like this: with respect for the system and for all parties involved,” the media statement read.