Seniors use gymnastics equipment to improve their balance and flexibility, one of the programs developed to keep B.C.’s growing number of seniors active and independent. These programs have been suspended, and seniors’ activity centres closed due to COVID-19. (Delta Gymnastics Society)

COVID-19 adds to burden of caring for B.C. seniors at home

Day programs, activity centres can’t operate in pandemic

B.C.’s public health focus in the coronavirus pandemic is on residential care and assisted living facilities, where 20,000 staff care for the most at-risk population of seniors.

But by far the largest group of B.C. care providers is more than one million unpaid family members caring for relatives at home. And their activities, outings and respite care have been mostly taken away by isolation restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says the province has fewer options for direct support, but it is reaching out virtually with a toll-free help line at 1-877-520-3267, and a new website, familycaregiversBC.ca to provide support. The province has provided an additional $500,000 to the Family Caregivers of B.C. to better connect people who are taking care of elderly relatives.

“I know the help you really need right now is some relief from your caregiving duties, and some time for yourself,” Mackenzie said April 26. “That’s incredibly challenging to provide for you right now. But you may find some comfort, if you can share your burden with those who understand it best. Please call Family Caregivers of BC directly, or connect through 2-1-1 and allow them to help.”

Since March, B.C.’s 2-1-1 line and its website bc211.ca have been connecting the thousands of volunteers offering meal and medicine deliveries or friendly virtual visits for seniors isolated in the pandemic. In the first four weeks, it has delivered more than 12,000 virtual visits, nearly 3,000 grocery deliveries and 2,800 meals.

RELATED: B.C.’s 2-1-1 hotline expands to link seniors, volunteers

RELATED: Respite care, adult day programs expanded in 2018

“There are over 5,500 British Columbians who have volunteered so far,” Mackenzie said. “It grows every day. I see selfless acts of kindness being extended to seniors in every neighbourhood of this province.”

Even self-sufficient seniors currently don’t have the option of visiting activity centres or libraries, where some were getting internet service.

Providing adequate, affordable home care has long been a struggle for the province, and the pandemic has aggravated that problem with the suspension of day programs. She urged people to use 2-1-1 or the new support line for advice and assistance.

“Others might receive respite from a care worker who comes into their home and allows the family member to get out, run errands, and be out and about in the community and get some relief,” Mackenzie said. “Now, with COVID-19, we’re finding that some families are cancelling some, or all, of their home respite in order to control the number of people that are coming into the home.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said home medical and care visits are being managed differently than senior care facilities, where visitors are strictly limited.

“There is guidance that we’ve provided for home support and for home care, nurses that go into the home to provide support as well,” Henry said in her daily briefing April 23. “It involves things like minimizing the people in the room.

“If you have to provide direct support, making sure that you have the appropriate tools to do it safely, making sure that you can clean your hands, that you can wear gloves, if necessary, and masks, if necessary. But also, recognizing that we don’t want you having contact with all the other family members that might be in the home.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bish Creek fire removed from Province’s Wildfire Dashboard

Unclear when investigation into fire’s cause will be completed

District looking for public input on cycling plan

Survey is open to the public until May 25

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Flooding unlikely this year throughout Skeena watershed

Region’s snowpack among lowest in the province

Cameras and convoys: Graduation in the age of COVID-19

Schools in Terrace and Kitimat are thinking outside the box to give students a graduation ceremony

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

28 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in ong-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

COVID-19: B.C. grants aim to stabilize sexual assault recovery programs

$10 million fund not yet ready to take applications

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Most Read