Families now have more opportunities to spend time with their aging loved ones, as restrictions ease across British Columbia’s long-term care homes.

Leading up to today (July 19th), the B.C. government rolled out multiple changes to senior visitation province-wide — changes that are making residents ‘much happier,’ long-term care aid Dale Pennell tells My Campbell River Now.

One of the major changes is that residents no longer have a limit on how many visitors they can receive; another being fully vaccinated visitors don’t have to wear masks.

Pennell, who works at Evergreen Seniors Home, says the Campbell River facility didn’t see a single case of COVID-19. He says it’s ‘real accreditation’ to the facility’s staff and the families, picking up where they had to. But as things get back to ‘normal’, he finds residents now have ‘much more freedom’.

“Even getting out, being able to go out and have more of the family come in at once instead of one person, it makes it so much better for them,” Pennell says. “And without masks on, it’s making it a lot nicer for a lot of them too. Especially the ones with dementia, it’s nice that they can see your face again.”

The other changes include:

  • Visitors will no longer need to schedule or book in advance to visit loved ones;
  • Each site will continue to maintain a sign-in list for contact tracing purposes and actively promote adherence to all infection prevention control protocols;
  • Volunteers and personal service providers entering long-term care settings are required to be fully vaccinated;
  • Workers who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask at work and be tested for COVID-19 regularly using rapid tests;
  • Larger, facility-wide social events or gatherings are safe to begin again;
  • Indoor gatherings may include residents and staff across units of a facility, while outdoor gatherings may include family and friends;
  • And adult day programs and in-facility respite can fully resume, providing additional health and well-being benefits for seniors and caregivers in the community.

While vital for reducing the spread of COVID-19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recognizes the restrictions on visitors have been ‘incredibly challenging’ for people in long-term care and their families.

“Because nearly 80 per cent of people in B.C. have stepped up to be vaccinated, we are now in a place where visitation in long-term care can resume in a more normal way,” said Henry in a July 8th release.

“The pandemic has challenged people living and working in long-term care in ways we never could have imagined, but we are now finally in a place where people can safely spend more time together again,” added Health Minister Adrian Dix.