Sylvia Girard (centre) is pictured on her birthday last year with her children (from left) Frank, Louise, Mike and Janice. (Contributed photo)
Sylvia Girard (centre) is pictured on her birthday last year with her children (from left) Frank, Louise, Mike and Janice. Girard is moving into a South Surrey care facility on the same date that the province has said restrictions on visitation are to be relaxed. (Contributed photo)

Sylvia Girard (centre) is pictured on her birthday last year with her children (from left) Frank, Louise, Mike and Janice. (Contributed photo) Sylvia Girard (centre) is pictured on her birthday last year with her children (from left) Frank, Louise, Mike and Janice. Girard is moving into a South Surrey care facility on the same date that the province has said restrictions on visitation are to be relaxed. (Contributed photo)

Relaxing restrictions for long-term care a relief, says daughter of South Surrey-bound senior

Not everyone is on board with the new freedoms that begin April 1

Restrictions on visits in long-term and assisted-living facilities are lifting, and the timing couldn’t be better, says the family of one senior.

Janice Girard said her mom Sylvia “had some emotions” over the prospect of moving from her New Westminster apartment into a South Surrey retirement residence this coming Thursday (April 1), in the midst of a pandemic, when who could visit and what those visits could look like were drastically limited by provincial health orders that have been in place for more than a year now.

But last Thursday’s news (March 26) – which included that hugs will be allowed, as will visits with more than one person at a time, as of April 1 – lightened that load, Girard said.

“She was so nervous that people wouldn’t come visit her,” Girard said Friday, noting there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have only been able to visit virtually.

“I think she’s very… relieved that we can all go and see her.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Friends, family allowed to visit B.C. senior homes April 1

In sharing word of the relaxing restrictions, Minister of Health Adrian Dix said with the extra layer of protection that vaccinations bring, “it is a safe time to ease visitor restrictions and support safe social connections for people in long-term care.”

In addition to enabling long-term care and assisted-living residents to enjoy visits with more people, there will also be more flexibility around where the visits may take place.

Kellie Besseling, community relations director for Amica White Rock – where Girard’s 85-year-old mother is moving – said until now, visits have been confined to dedicated visitor rooms. As of Thursday, they can even be inside a resident’s suite – news Besseling described as “huge” for all of the residents.

The new rules allow up to two visitors, plus a child, at a time, with physical touch allowed using masks and hand hygiene. The changes also remove physical-distance requirements between residents, allowing for communal dining and small-group social or recreational activities in senior homes.

Planning for how to roll things out is underway, but for some, adjusting to the new freedoms won’t happen overnight.

“At the end of the day, you still have people who are nervous as well, and we want to be sure we see both sides and we support both ends of the spectrum,” said Craig Dickau, Amica’s regional director of sales and marketing.

For example, “we’ve had dining partners in the past, so basically (residents) were eating with certain people just so we could manage the risk,” Dickau continued.

“Even though we’re opening it up, some of them are choosing to only dine with their dining partners.”

Health and safety will remain the priority, and residents will be fully supported in whatever steps fit their comfort level, he added.

Some people have expressed concern with the province lifting restrictions, describing the move as confusing and contradictory to the current COVID-19 case numbers.

READ ALSO: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

“What happened to baby steps?” Janice Gale writes in an email to staff at the White Rock residence her brother calls home.

One care-home employee – who asked to remain anonymous – told Peace Arch News that many staff and management feel things are moving too quickly.

“The visitors have not been allowed in for a whole year and all of a sudden they can come in droves?” the staffer said. “After this whole year of not allowing anything, it’s all OK now?

“I think we are in shock.”

Early in the pandemic, public health officials identified people living in long-term care and assisted living as particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19, and enacted restrictions in the name of protecting their health and safety.

People living and working in long-term care were among the first in B.C. to be vaccinated. Fraser Health announced on Jan. 15 that all of its 151 long-term care and assisted-living facilities had completed vaccination clinics.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

“This year has been challenging for all of us, but the challenges for those living and working in long-term care and their loved ones have been among the greatest we have faced,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.

“Now that the most vulnerable among us have received a vaccine, we are safely amending restrictions to give people in long-term care greater opportunities to connect with the people they love.”

Henry acknowledged that the expansion of visits is likely to mean more infection outbreaks in care homes, but said with vaccine protection and other precautions, that risk is outweighed by the effect of continued isolation of elderly people.

Social visits will be suspended in the event of an outbreak; as well, all visits must be pre-booked.

According to a B.C. government document with details of the update, the changes are in effect until June 30.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

CoronavirusSeniorsSurreyWhite Rock

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

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service to begin public consultation late June, early July

Community input, chief constable says, ‘will occur’

Surrey RCMP reunited three stolen puppies with their mom. (RCMP handout)
Puppies stolen from South Surrey home located, reunited with mom

Surrey RCMP said they found the stolen puppies on April 16

Welcome to your park sign marks the spot where 84th Avenue will continue east from King George Boulevard 
to 140th Street as part of a $13 million road project. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Road Rage: Opposition mounts anew to Surrey’s plan for 84 Ave. at south end of Bear Creek Park

Same place, same project, same fight as Surrey prepares once again to connect 84th Avenue between King George and 140th Street in Newton

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/ screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read