Hugs abound for reunited families and couples as B.C. relaxes visitor rules for long-term care

·2 min read
Peter Out visits his mother Johanna Out at Normanna Living in Burnaby, B.C., on the first day of new visitation rules that allow physical contact at long-term care homes. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Peter Out visits his mother Johanna Out at Normanna Living in Burnaby, B.C., on the first day of new visitation rules that allow physical contact at long-term care homes. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

On Thursday, 84-year-old Lucille Minuk held her husband's hand for the first time in a year.

Harry Minuk is a resident at the Three Links Care Centre in Vancouver, once the site of a COVID-19 outbreak. Since the pandemic began, they've been making do with virtual visits and hellos through a plexiglas barrier.

But this week, thanks to high vaccination rates in long-term care facilities across B.C., visitation rules have been significantly relaxed.

"We've both aged," Lucille Minuk joked as she was reunited with Harry.

"I knew I would be able to see him again. I didn't think it would be this long."

Before now, physical contact has been out of the question. Touching is now allowed, with precautions in place like wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer, and residents are allowed to see up to two adult visitors and one child at a time.

Lucille and Harry Minuk hold hands for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Harry is a resident at Three Links Care Centre in Vancouver.
Lucille and Harry Minuk hold hands for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Harry is a resident at Three Links Care Centre in Vancouver.(Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"I think one of the most important things, which is good to see, is they can also now hug, and they can hold hands, and that's really the social connection that's been missing," Three Links Care Centre spokesperson Dawne Koke said.

The care home has also implemented rapid testing to provide an extra layer of defence.

"I'll be honest, we're all a little bit nervous about opening up so quickly because we don't want to go through another outbreak and because there are still some unknowns," Koke said.

Brenda Killick got a chance to see her father at Tabor Village in Abbotsford on Thursday. It was among the hardest hit long-term care homes in the province, with an outbreak that led to the deaths of 26 people.

"They've been through a very difficult outbreak here. I see the staff ... making good choices. I feel totally comfortable to come in here," Killick said after her visit.

Visits to care homes need to be booked in advance and tracked for contact-tracing purposes, and they'll be suspended if there's an outbreak. There are no longer restrictions on frequency or duration of visits.