Many seniors in long-term care are not experiencing the freedoms that come with lifting most COVID restrictions in Alberta. (Advocate file photo)

Many seniors in long-term care are not experiencing the freedoms that come with lifting most COVID restrictions in Alberta. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer senior in long-term care feels isolated by ongoing COVID restrictions

‘You begin to feel withdrawn and depressed’

COVID restrictions are being lifted across Alberta, but many long-term care residents aren’t feeling the freedom, says a resident of Red Deer’s Extendicare.

Betty Young expressed frustration about how much time she and other residents of the seniors’ complex on Michener Hill are having to spend in their rooms.

The facility was in lock-down from Jan. 7-24, after a staff member tested positive with the virus. Young said no residents at that time had tested positive, but everyone still had to spend more than two weeks isolating n their rooms — even getting meals delivered in Styrofoam containers.

Extendicare was locked down again from Feb. 17 after another staffer tested positive, said Young. This time, the virus spread to three residents of Extendicare (who have since recovered).

Young said none of the sick people were on her unit, yet once again, all residents were forced to isolate in their bedrooms.

While up to two outside visitors were allowed into the facility that houses 200-plus people during this time, Young said residents don’t have visitors every day. “You begin to feel withdrawn and depressed… Having no social activity can be really depressing.”

The triple-vaccinated woman likes to swim for exercise, but couldn’t get to a pool since she can’t use an Action Bus because her facility was under lock-down.

Some freedoms were restored at the complex this week after all Extendicare residents tested negative for COVID on Tuesday.

Young said she and others are now being allowed to leave their rooms, although they must still stay within their units until March 14, as a precaution. She’s relieved to be able to visit with neighbours and eat in the unit’s communal dining room.

The resident said she understands that COVID hit some nursing homes hard, causing numerous deaths early in the pandemic. And Young knows nursing home operators must follow Alberta Health Services guidelines and the Communicable Disease Control Act, but she wishes more latitude could be applied when residents are living in units that have no COVID cases.

Extendicare released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging that public health’s outbreak protocols can be difficult for long-term care fellow residents when isolation is required to limit virus spread. It can be “incredibly challenging for our communities,” stated Extendicare in an e-mail.

But Extendicare Michener Hill continues to operate in outbreak protocols, while working closely with health authorities, including Public Health, to find ways to support resident quality of life during this time.

“Throughout an outbreak, Public Health evaluates risk level for virus transmission, and we are pleased that they have indicated that it is safe to implement increased flexibility for residents’ routines, including walks throughout the home, at this stage.”

Families can continue to visit people in the facility, in accordance with safety measures and PPE requirements, “recognizing the critical role they play in resident well-being.”

Extendicare added in the e-mail: “We continue to provide regular updates directly to families, residents and team members, and will continue to collaborate daily with our health partners to ensure the right protections are in place for those who live and work in our communities.”