Amica White Rock residents Larry O’Brien and Julian Kirstiuk recently founded the federally incorporated Canadian Association for Retirement Home Residents. (Aaron Hinks photo)

B.C. retirement home residents fight province’s visitor restrictions

Association launched to give Canada’s long-term care, senior home residents a voice

Two South Surrey seniors have launched a national association as a way to give a voice to long-term care home residents and people who live in retirement homes.

Amica White Rock residents Larry O’Brien and Julian Kirstiuk recently founded the federally incorporated Canadian Association for Retirement Home Residents (CARHR).

An association designed to represent long-term care home residents has been needed for years, O’Brien said. However, the trigger point for starting CARHR, he added, was the introduction of a restriction regarding visitors at B.C.’s retirement homes and long-term care facilities.

SEE ALSO: B.C. senior home survey to measure COVID-19 impacts

The current provincial guidelines restrict visits to one designated family member or friend.

O’Brien, who is the CEO of the new association, said the restriction should be adjusted to allow two people to visit at the same time. Allowing only one person, he said, is no different than being told to pick your favourite child.

“If you’ve got three children and 10 grandchildren, only one of those are ever allowed to visit you. That’s a horrible situation,” he said.

One of the first actions of the association was to write an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. While the letter commends her “exceptional efforts” to control COVID-19, it takes issue with her position on long-term care home visitors.

“There is one regulation you have endorsed that begs for your re-assessment. The imposition of the very cruel and inhumane order that separates families. You have separated families and forced those seniors living in retirement homes to endure a long period of extreme stress with their isolation,” O’Brien wrote.

“There can be little justification for restricting visiting at retirement homes to one designated visitor.”

Monday afternoon, after announcing six new deaths and 317 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, Dr. Henry said there are currently 13 long-term care homes where there are COVID-19 outbreaks.

Henry said she does not envision the province increasing restrictions on visitors, but acknowledged the challenges that come with loosening them.

“The difficulty we have with long-term care is that it’s not just our person that is in there, it’s everybody who’s at risk,” Dr. Henry said.

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix said the most common concern his office receives relates to visitor restrictions at long-term care homes.

“We’ve taken a very methodical approach to dealing with it,” Dix said during the news briefing.

“It’s clear that we want, as a goal, to increase the number of visits but we have to put that into context. COVID-19 is obviously unbelievably harmful, potentially harmful, to people living in long-term care.”

The association, O’Brien said, is a vehicle for people to speak out if they’re otherwise afraid to do so.

“The people in these homes, especially the long-term care homes, they either don’t want to speak (or) they’re afraid to speak,” he said. “Most people, even in here, are reluctant to speak because they’re reluctant to offend the manager. Now, in our case, we have a really great manager, but I’m more about the long-term care where all of these people have died tragically.”

O’Brien described Amica as “top of the heap,” however, he said the degree of stress felt by himself and neighbours varies depending on individual circumstances and family relationships.

SEE ALSO: B.C. records 132 more COVID-19 cases, one in long-term care

“Yeah, people are stressed, there’s no doubt about it. But seniors don’t show their stress as much as younger people might. When you’re age 70, 80, 90, you’ve learned to deal with stress to some extent, at least you learn to hide it.”

O’Brien and Kirstiuk are hoping to recruit volunteer board members.

“That’s probably the most important issue we have right now,” he said.

The ultimate goal is to have the association run by children and grandchildren of residents living in long-term care or retirement homes. O’Brien envisions seniors sharing concerns with their family members, which would then be relayed to the association. Those concerns would then be brought to the proper authorities.

“That’s what has been totally missing. We’ve had no way to connect.”

To learn more about the association or to request to join, O’Brien can be contacted at ldobmob@gmail.com or 778-966-5261.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSeniorsSurreywhite rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Osoyoos Fire Department)
Osoyoos Fire Department knock down car fire near house

Blaze was ‘really close’ to becoming a structure fire

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Family devastated as search for missing Manning Park hiker suspended

‘It was an extremely difficult meeting with the parents when we had to tell them.’

Advance voting is already underway in the 42nd general election in British Columbia. Election day is Oct. 24.(Black Press files photo)
QUIZ: Are you ready for the B.C. election?

Take this short test and see how much you know about elections and voting

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. Facebook photo.
‘Please pray for our son,’ says mother of missing hiker

Searchers continue efforts to find 25-year-old Vancouver man in Manning Park

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vernon Fire Rescue Services and Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP were called to a report of an electrical fire at the emergency response centre operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society on 37th Street Sunday, Oct. 18, just before 5:30 p.m. The fire displaced shelter residents who have been set up with services at the Vernon Recreation Complex. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon shelter residents find refuge in hotels, motels, recreation complex after fire

Electrical fire at Turning Points Collaborative Society’s emergency response centre on 37th Street

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna man charged after allegedly stealing senior’s car

Elderly woman’s car was stolen while she was shopping

Salmon Arm RCMP say residents have been receiving calls from fraudster claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP warn of Publishers Clearing House telephone scam

Police say scammer requests fee to claim sweepstakes prizes

The Summerland Steam will play their first exhibition game of the season on Friday, Oct. 23. Unlike previous years, there will be no spectators allowed in the stands this year in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brennan Phillips - Black Press)
Junior B hockey teams to play in empty arenas

Summerland Steam and other teams affected by decision to close facilities to fans

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Okanagan concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Most Read