City tells family members to stop window visits at long-term care homes

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A Canadian city is asking family members this week to stop visiting the windows of loved ones at long-term care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Window visits at nursing homes -- famously captured amid the outbreak -- are typically the only way residents can see their elderly family members in person, due to strict social distancing measures in order to protect their health.

Dean Lett, director of long-term care in Ottawa, said he made the request for no window visits at city-run homes in order “to help ensure that physical distancing remains in place for all our residents.”

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Kaye Knighton, 86, receives a visit from his daughter-law Darla Knighton at the Creekside Senior Living, in Bountiful, Utah on March 24. Window visits help seniors connect to families despite coronavirus restrictions. At greater risk from COVID-19, some seniors now face added anxiety due to delays obtaining Medicare coverage. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Kaye Knighton, 86, receives a visit from his daughter-law Darla Knighton at the Creekside Senior Living, in Bountiful, Utah on March 24. Window visits help seniors connect to families despite coronavirus restrictions. At greater risk from COVID-19, some seniors now face added anxiety due to delays obtaining Medicare coverage. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

“With the effects that we have seen the virus have on long-term care homes across the country, we have a responsibility to do everything possible to minimize the risks of COVID-19 from entering the homes and to protect the safety of residents and staff," he said, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Lett added the city has seen a number of occasions where families have visited homes and "not respected the requirement for physical distancing as directed through public health agencies.”

He said Ottawa has deployed additional staff and increased access to certain technology (Skype, phone calls, emails, and letters) to help residents stay in touch with their loved ones. The city has seen COVID-19 outbreaks at two long-term care homes.

“We know the lack of connection during the pandemic has been so difficult for families and residents,” he added, according to the paper. “Families are encouraged to connect with staff to schedule regular opportunities to connect with their loved ones.”

Some family members who make daily visits outside the windows are calling the decision cruel, adding that it's the only connection they have to loved ones who are forced to stay isolated and alone.

“I think that my father’s visits with my mother are keeping her alive," said resident Diana Pepin. "Her seeing him is keeping her will to continue on.”

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She added that her father, 92, visits her mother, 89, most evenings before bed at an elderly care home in the city.

Nancy Devonport said she's been offered to conduct FaceTime calls with her 93-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, but they find the technology awkward.

“I am quite dismayed that interacting by just looking at one another through a window is not permissible when these people are so very, very isolated and really see no one but caregivers,” Devonport said, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

“This is 40 days now that I have been separated from my mom. I used to see her every day. Staff have showed no understanding about the emotional toll it is taking on these folks who are so vulnerable and don’t completely understand.”

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The City of Ottawa currently operates four long-term care homes.