Teresa Armstrong MPP, London-Fanshawe

Government of Ontario

Premier must revise long-term care visitation guidelines to reflect essential role of family caregivers

Published on July 8, 2020

LONDON — Teresa Armstrong, London-Fanshawe MPP and critic for Long-Term Care ,called on the provincial government to make sure families can access safe long-term care visits to check on their loved ones' health and well-being.

In question period Tuesday, Armstrong said the mental and physical toll that months of isolation have taken on long-term care residents cannot be alleviated by family visits governed by arbitrary and inconsistent guidelines. Current guidelines only allow for as little as 30 minutes a week.

“It is distressing for family to see their loved ones become inconsolable that their family is so close, yet still so far away,” Armstrong said. “Staff and family are asking why family caregivers need bi-weekly testing for COVID-19 to sit outside, six feet apart, not touching while wearing masks, when staff with direct contact aren’t even being consistently tested,” Armstrong said. 

“Family caregivers aren’t just visitors, but essential to the mental and physical care of so many vulnerable long-term care residents.”

Armstrong heard from a 92-year-old man in her riding whose retirement home is charging a 20-dollar service fee to perform a COVID-19 test on him so he can visit his wife who lives in the long-term care home across the street. Armstrong stressed that seniors should not have to pay out of pocket to see their spouses.

On Tuesday morning, Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath held a virtual press conference with a woman who lost her mother to COVID-19 in an Etobicoke long-term care facility and is worried she will be unable to comfort her grieving father now that he’s recovering in long-term care, where she’ll be unable to see him for more than a few minutes each week.

Horwath said it’s too soon for family caregivers to hug their loved ones or provide hands-on support, but that arbitrary caps on visiting and unevenly enforced rules are only compounding the anguish so many families are facing.

Armstrong said the government must revise visiting guidelines to reflect the essential role of family caregivers.