It might soon be possible to hug and even kiss elderly residents of long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted-living facilities in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Documents obtained by CBC show the health authority is set to loosen COVID-19 protocols to allow residents to name one designated social visitor who, along with the physical contact, would also be allowed to bring food and pets into the facilities and take residents away for outings.
An information sheet sent to seniors’ facilities from VCH and Providence Health Care outlines the following changes:
- Social visits permitted in single occupancy resident rooms.
- Minimum once weekly visitation: 60-90 minute, in single resident room visits are recommended.
- Brief physical contact may occur.
- Social visits permitted during the period of admission isolation.
- Constant supervision of visits is unnecessary.
- Flowers, food and gifts are approved with safety protocols in place.
- Pets may be brought in by the social visitor.
- Same day social and leisure outings with the designated visitor are encouraged.
The documents indicate VCH and Providence had anticipated releasing the guidelines on March 15.
CBC has requested an interview with Vancouver Coastal Health to clarify if and when the new guidelines will be made public.
CBC has also reached out to a number of long term care facilities. All declined comment and referred requests back to VCH.
A brief sent to facilities on March 11 reads, “We are hoping you will accept and adopt these guidelines in an effort to support residents and their families in visiting while maintaining safety precautions for staff at the facilities both owned and operated by VCH and also private pay facilities.”
The documents say new protocols are still contingent on screening and strict safety and hygiene rules being followed.
For instance, when it comes to physical contact, the guidelines state, “embracing, kissing and holding the hand of a resident is allowed provided strict hand hygiene, appropriate respiratory etiquette and mask is worn.
While seniors in residential facilities make up the bulk of COVID-19 deaths in B.C., restrictions on visitors to prevent spread of the virus within facilities has forced a painful level of isolation on many of the elderly residents.