A Glace Bay woman says policy changes for home care have made the pandemic even harder on her and her sister.
Gert Boudreau is the primary caretaker for her sister, Frances Janes.
Boudreau says her sister is 70 and has mental disabilities. She is also blind.
Janes requires 24-hour care, which Boudreau began after their father died in 2017.
The care includes preparing meals, bathroom needs and guiding Janes around the house.
As a result, Boudreau has continuing care assistants who help.
Changes made at start of pandemic
The service, provided through New Waterford Home Care, offers care in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Boudreau says changes were made when the pandemic began.
Eventually, new policies resulted in Boudreau seeing more than double the number of care assistants in her home, driving up concern over COVID-19.
In the early days of COVID-19, she cancelled the respite care.
"I'm going to try to eliminate as many people that are coming into my house and make my bubble very small, before bubble was even a word," she said.
Boudreau made her social circle small, saying her sister was high risk for contracting COVID-19.
Boudreau said continuing care reduced some services over concerns of the pandemic shortly after.
By summer, services began to pick up, and not a moment too soon.
"I can honestly tell you that I was getting pretty tired, like … I was looking forward to it," she said.
However, Boudreau soon began to notice changes about how many care assistants were coming into her home.
Twice as many care assistants entering her home
She said before the pandemic, home care during the afternoon would include a three-hour visit from a care assistant.
In the summer, New Waterford Home Care stated workers would only be able to keep a mask on for two hours at a time.
As a result, a three-hour respite for Boudreau meant two separate assistants would come in per day.
"My concern was the amount of people that were coming in," she said. "Their problem was staffing."
Along with an increase in the amount of contacts in the house, Boudreau said the care assistants would sometimes be late, making it difficult to schedule appointments or run errands.
For Boudreau, this time in the afternoon is often the only free time she gets.
Since the new mask policy came in place, Boudreau said scheduling is a little better, but the number of workers entering her house is still high.
"I'm still having six and seven people coming in the house," she said. "It's just not feasible."
While frustrations have been mounting, Boudreau said the care her sister receives is not a concern.
"Frances's care is exceptional. They're like family," she said. "[I] have to say that most of my concerns are with the management style." When Boudreau reached out to New Waterford Home Care, she said she was given various reasons why workers could only wear masks for two hours at a time.
Not satisfied with answers
She didn't find any of the answers sufficient.
"They're allowed to make their own policy, whether it's detrimental to us or not … so that doesn't make sense to me."
The continuing care service is provided by the province to people who seek care outside the hospital in their home.
When asked about New Waterford Home Care's mask policy, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said organizations have their own policies and are responsible to determine how their businesses will operate. This includes New Waterford Home Care.
When contacted, New Waterford Home Care declined comment.
Boudreau doesn't believe her concerns are unique.
"I can't be the only one that's having these concerns about the number of people that are coming in the home," she said.
To deal with the changes, Boudreau said she had a quiet Christmas. She didn't have family or friends visit in order to limit her household bubble.
She said she would be more than willing to have home care provided through the day with assistants taking quick breaks to remove masks to help abide by the policy.
Boudreau said it's unclear if her concerns have been heard or considered by New Waterford Home Care.
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