A Joint Statement from Family Councils Ontario (FCO) and Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils (OARC)
Dear Residents and Families,
Late last Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams sent out a memo to long-term care homes strongly recommending that homes only allow “essential” visitors until further notice. Essential visitors are defined as those who have a resident who is dying or very ill.
This means that, effective immediately, only essential visitors will be permitted to enter a long-term care home -- and only if they successfully pass the screening. No other visitors will be permitted to enter the long-term care home.
We understand that this decision is hard on you. Visitors are essential to resident quality of life and assure families that all is well in their loved one’s home. Please understand that this decision was not taken lightly. It has been taken to ensure the health and safety of the residents entrusted to the care of long-term care homes, their families, and the staff members who are working hard during this time to keep residents safe and well. As the organizations that work to represent the voices of residents and families, OARC and FCO were consulted on this decision and support it. It is necessary in order to keep our residents and families safe.
Residents’ health and safety is paramount. To live in a healthy manner, opportunities for social engagement, joyful interaction, peer and family support, and meaningful activities are important. We recognize that restricting opportunities for such interactions will impact residents in significant ways, opening the door for loneliness, sadness and isolation. Your visitors/families are valued contributors to the daily rhythm and life lived in your home.
We also know that many families visit daily not only for social visits, but also to take care of their loved one and provide valuable assistance at mealtimes. Not being able to see and care for your resident must be one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the pandemic. But, it is a pandemic and we need to take precautions to avoid further spread of the virus. Restricting visitors to long-term care homes is one of those precautions.
The evidence gathered so far tells us that older adults and those with underlying health issues are at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 (source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html). This means that residents are at higher risk of severe illness or death. During this difficult time, please keep this in mind and remember that measures such as visitor restrictions are being implemented to save lives.
We are living through an unprecedented time. During this time, please know that we understand and empathize with what you’re going through.
To residents, we ask that you take care of yourselves and your fellow residents when you can, and try to exercise patience with those who are around you, seizing opportunities for laughter and peace.
To families, we recognize your pain and stress from being far away from your loved ones. We ask that you be patient and understand that the visitor restriction is being done to keep your loved ones safe.
To team members/staff, we can’t be with you in person but we see the hard work that you are doing to keep residents safe, healthy, and engaged. Thank you.
This is a crisis. The Ontario government and long-term care homes are doing the best they can in this difficult situation. Our goal must be to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 infections in long-term care and to keep our residents safe.
We’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together.
Samantha Peck (FCO) & Dee Lender (OARC)