Local nursing homes prepare for family visits

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
June 17 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – It was the news thousands of Nova Scotians had been waiting for. On Wednesday, June 10, the province announced that some visitor restrictions in long-term care homes and homes for persons with disabilities would be eased effective Monday, June 15. While this was welcome news, it meant facilities had less than a week to prepare to enact these new measures. And some families were left feeling that the new measures weren’t enough after waiting three months to see their loved ones face-to-face.

The new measures state that visits can resume “provided they happen outdoors and visitors stay two metres or six feet away from residents and staff.”

MODG is home to two long-term care facilities; Canso Seaside Manor in Canso and Milford Haven Home for Special Care in Guysborough. While planning was still underway to make outdoor visits possible, MODG’s long-term care homes provided The Journal with preliminary details, subject to change, of how visits would be managed. At Canso Seaside Manor, which has 15 residents, all visits will take place on the outside patio, weather permitting. All visits will be supervised by staff and are by scheduled appointment to be provided on an equitable basis. Visitors will be required to wear non-medical masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Canso Seaside Manor has approval to secure funding for extra LTC Assistants should it be required. The facility currently has two summer students who will be able to assist with family visits.

Milford Haven Home in Guysborough will host family visits at the back of the building with staff on hand to monitor the visits and assure health and safety. Initially, visits will be scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors will be required to wear masks.

The Guysborough facility, which has 50 residents, anticipates that the main challenge in implementing the new measures will be monitoring and scheduling visits. It will also increase the staff workload and may require more staff hours.

MODG warden Vernon Pitts sits as chair of the board for the facilities and emailed the following statement about the change in restrictions to The Journal on Friday: “Our staff at both Milford Haven Home for Special Care and Canso Seaside Manor are true dedicated professionals. With COVID-19 restrictions, they have worked tirelessly to keep themselves and our residents safe. We sincerely thank them for that!

“As we work through the move to allow a form of visiting, which is so important for our residents, we know staff will take every precaution possible to adapt to what will be continual change,” wrote Pitts.

Chris Cook, a resident of Linwood, spoke to The Journal on Friday about the impact visitor restrictions at long-term care facilities have had on his family—his mother is a resident of Milford Haven Home and his father Murray Cook, who was a daily visitor before the pandemic hit, lives in the nearby community of Cooks Cove.

“My father was ‘x’-ing it off on the calendar. He knows the exact number of days,” said Cook of the weeks and months that have passed since he or his father have had an in-person visit with his mother.

Cook is aware of all the preventive protocols that will continue to be in place during the visits; six feet apart, masks on, no physical contact and scheduled visits only. While Cook said the family understands these measures, they’re not entirely satisfied with the restrictions. “I think, speaking from my personal experience and the commentary from my father, his comment was, ‘Now I have to make an appointment to see my wife.’ He was a little negative at first but he understands and I understand that it is the first step and that they have to follow the protocol.”

“This province seems very conservative when it comes to the reopening compared to other provinces,” said Cook. “I hear PEI is now going to allow inside nursing home visits. Hopefully Nova Scotia will be quickly behind that.”

All that said, Cook thinks that if a family member has taken all precautions, “It’s a little disheartening that you can’t give your wife or mother a hug. When you spend so long wanting to see someone…it’d be nice to do that. That’s what my family will be missing the opportunity to do. You have to follow these guidelines for now and be patient. But it is frustrating when you are well, and you know there are no cases in the home or in the community.”

Since the pandemic restrictions started in mid-March, Murray Cook has visited his wife from a distance, through a window and has spoken to her every night on the phone. “He made a little sign and he takes it to hold up to the window and it says something to the effect, ‘I miss you and love you Nancy and can’t wait to take you for a drive again.’ That’s what dad has done,” said Cook, adding, “I know she’s taken care of and well, but I feel bad for my father who has been there every day prior to this for two or three hours a day. He has a close relationship with her and she does with him.”