English Family Living Health & Medicine

Nursing homes: more vaccinated, fewer restrictions

Caregiver helping an elderly woman with her walking aid outdoors in the grounds of the retirement home.

They will resume having lunch together, participating in social activities, embracing those who care for them. Thanks to the increase in vaccination rates, Ontario has decided to relax in long-term care homes the restrictions adopted to contain Covid-19 infections.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton’s directive, therefore, allows residents and healthcare professionals who are fully immunized to have physical contact, such as hugging or holding hands. A return, at least partial, to the much-sighed normality. “The high prevalence of vaccination in long-term care homes means we can take further steps towards restoring social interactions, supporting residents’ mental and emotional well-being while protecting their physical well-being,” Ms. Fullerton said.

The decision came more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic: vaccines have been instrumental in easing the bans. Ontario’s Covid-19 Science Advisory Table said that eight weeks after vaccinations began in nursing homes, infections, admissions and deaths among residents and workers in the sector have significantly decreased.

Additional precautions are then required if at least 85% of residents and 70% of staff are not fully immunized in long-term care homes. However, it turns out that until yesterday about 95% of elderly people living in LTC were fully vaccinated and 85% of staff received at least the first dose.

These have not been easy months for the elderly living in the LTC: the death toll, despite falling to almost zero in recent weeks, is 3,761. Deaths, lack of staff, difficulties of all kinds and blocking visits of children and family members in general: the toll paid by residents was huge. The report by Ontario’s Long-Term Care Commission shows that “the mental health consequences of pandemic restrictions for residents were similar to those faced by prisoners in solitary confinement.”

Once the province’s current order to “stay at home” is lifted, Minister Fullerton said, further guidance will be issued that will allow social and temporary exits for fully vaccinated residents.

This news was not welcomed by Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University who specializes in family care, who said that “the government must go further by allowing more family members to enter homes and allowing outdoor visits.” “It’s strange that families can take residents on a medical examination, but they can’t take them across the street to a park or take a ride… – said Ms. Stamatopoulos – it doesn’t make any sense.”

Nor did she like the timing of the LTC changes: “After the Long-Term Care Commission report, which was a cold shower for the government, loosening restrictions has all the air of being a way for the government to improve public relations, to earn points in terms of its image. Nothing more,” the university lecturer cut short.

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