What to expect from long-term care homes as we begin to exit the pandemic.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care homes were impacted the most, and they’re only just now starting to recover. As the number of fully vaccinated Canadians increases, restrictions are lifting, and there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone. Long-term care home residents faced some of the most rigid restrictions but now see more normalcy return to their lives. Suppose you have a loved one who lives in a home or is starting their transition into a home. In that case, there are still some restrictions, guidelines, and additional changes to be aware of.
As of right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory anywhere in Canada. However, as per the Minister’s Directive, every long-term care home must have an immunization policy for staff, volunteers, and student placements. Under the policy, anyone working in a long-term care home must either provide proof of vaccination or a medical reason that exempts them from vaccination or otherwise participate in an educational program. The educational program is for anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated, whether for medical or non-medical reasons. There are no immunization requirements for general visitors.
COVID-19 safety precautions
Wearing masks is still mandatory at all times for everyone except residents, although policies must strongly encourage them. If you’re visiting indoors, you must wear a medical mask at all times; you can wear non-medical masks when visiting outdoors. Additionally, all long-term care homes must continue to accommodate enough space to allow and enforce physical distancing.
long-term care homes implemented ‘cohorting’ to limit the risk of outbreaks and transmission of COVID-19. A cohort is a group of residents who stay in the same area of the home at all times – outbreak or not – and are not permitted to mingle indoors with other groups. Cohorts aren’t as strict when residents are outdoors to allow socializing, but masking and physical distancing are still highly recommended.
Activities, events, and gatherings at long-term care homes
Many families and residents suffered greatly from the strict restrictions and no-visitor policies. Thankfully, there are significantly fewer restrictions now. Events and gatherings are permitted so long as there are precautions such as cohorting, limiting room capacity, extensive cleaning and disinfecting, and masking. Caregivers who are fully vaccinated and who pass screening can also participate in indoor and outdoor activities with residents.
Communal dining, buffet, and family-style dining are all permitted, but residents must stay in their cohort. Staff and visitors who are fully vaccinated can now eat with residents and or assist feeding.
Off-site excursions are back too! Once again, residents will still stay within their cohort and be encouraged to wear masks and practice physical distancing. All residents and are screened for COVID-19 signs and symptoms upon their return.
Visiting long-term care homes
There are no longer any limits on the number of visitors in long-term care homes. Every home will have its own visitor policies with guiding principles, minimum requirements, and mandatory screening. Homes cannot unreasonably restrict residents from having visitors. Still, scheduling, length, and frequency of visits may be different for every long-term care home. However, homes must allow visitors a minimum of 60 minutes per visit, and at least two visits a week for each resident
As the risk of COVID-19 begins to diminish, public health units will continue lifting and implementing restrictions when necessary. It’s crucial to stay informed and contact long-term care homes directly with any questions and concerns you may have.