Families share experiences with long-term care during COVID-19 pandemic

Peter Harrison shared his concerns about how residents in long-term care facilities were treated during the pandemic. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Peter Harrison shared his concerns about how residents in long-term care facilities were treated during the pandemic. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

An external government advisory panel heard from Island families on Monday about their experiences with public and private long-term care facilities on P.E.I. during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five-person long-term care external review panel began gathering information in May, with the goal of evaluating what worked and what didn't during the pandemic.

Families spoke about difficulties in dealing with restrictions, feeling cut off from loved ones and concerns with staffing or training.

Peter Harrison raised concerns about the social needs of residents being overlooked during the pandemic. His mother and father lived in different nursing areas of the same long-term care home at the start of the pandemic.

Peter Harrison/Submitted
Peter Harrison/Submitted

When restrictions were put in place, his parents could only see each other for a half-hour each day. Harrison said he feels his father's isolation had a negative impact on his health.

"I always felt to some degree my dad died of a broken heart because he couldn't be with my mom for the time they would normally be together," he said.

"We got so caught up in the pandemic and the spread of it that we began to lose our compassion."

Another family member who spoke at the meeting, Lisa Farrell, had a loved one in a long-term care home in Charlottetown. She voiced concerns about how difficult the pandemic was on families and residents.

"It was hard, we couldn't go in and see our loved ones," she said.

"We had to speak to her through a window. And I get why, but … it was pretty sad when you would say goodbye to your loved one and they'd be waving to you through that window, crying."

Review to continue through November

Panel chair Michele Dorsey said they have been collecting input from sector stakeholders, including families, staff and residents to understand the current state of long-term care in the province, and deliver recommendations to ensure the system can meet proposed national standards going forward.

"It was really tough on everybody and so we want to understand that in a little bit more detail and be able to speak about that to government," she said.

Dorsey said the panel will continue to gather feedback from Islanders over the next few weeks, through an online survey and two online sessions yet to happen. They will then produce a report with recommendations for the provincial government. She expects the report to be ready in early 2023.