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Easing of restrictions in Nova Scotia forgetting seniors, daughters of Camp Hill resident say

Stefanie Stanislow, standing outside of Camp Hill Veterans' Memorial Hospital on Aug. 4, 2020, says seniors in long-term care facilities are being left behind as Nova Scotia continues to ease its restrictions.
Stefanie Stanislow, standing outside of Camp Hill Veterans' Memorial Hospital on Aug. 4, 2020, says seniors in long-term care facilities are being left behind as Nova Scotia continues to ease its restrictions.

All Terry and Stefanie Stanislow have to do if they want to go shopping at the mall or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant is grab a mask, get in the car and they’re good to go.

But for the Stanislow sisters to visit their 87-year-old father at Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Hospital in Halifax, it’s not that simple.

“We’re out living our lives and everything is expanding, except for our seniors. They’re being kept in a box,” Terry Stanislow said Tuesday.

Long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia were granted limited visitor access under strict public health protocols in mid-June.

At the time, all visits were to take place outdoors in a designated area on the facility’s property, and only two visitors, who must be 16 years old or older, could attend at a time and visitors were to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from the resident.

On July 22, Nova Scotia’s Health Department expanded visitor access at long-term care facilities to allow five people to visit a resident during the outdoor visit, where brief physical contact while masked can take place before returning to social distancing protocol.

"We’re out living our lives and everything is expanding, except for our seniors. They’re being kept in a box."

- Terry Stanislow, daughter of  Camp Hill resident

Also, long-term care residents are granted an indoor visitation with one person in a designated room. Brief physical contact while wearing a mask can also take place before returning to social distancing protocol.

But Stefanie Stanislow said the restrictions haven't been loosened enough, as her father’s mental health continues to decline.

“Once the pandemic came, we all adhered to the restrictions that were happening and were 100 per cent on board doing what we needed to do to keep things at bay,” she said. “But now we’re five months in and my dad is suffering. He’s lonely and depressed.”

Stefanie Stanislow said her 85-year-old mother’s mental health is also deteriorating, as she isn’t able to visit her husband of 61 years more than once a week.

“My parents have a pretty practical view on life and death and they both have expressed each one of them could die before they get to spend quality time together again,” she said.

On Tuesday, Stefanie and Terry Stanislow carried signs while walking up and down the sidewalk in front of Camp Hill, to call for more visitor access at long-term care facilities.

Holly Crooks and her sister walked with the Stanislows. Crooks said she felt the Stanislow’s, and many other families with loved ones in long-term care facilities, pain.

“We’re not seeing any significant improvement as far as our mother is concerned,” Crooks said when asked if her 90-year-old mother, a resident at Northwood, was doing better since The Chronicle Herald spoke to her at the beginning of July.

“We would like a private visit. This is our mother and we don’t think we’re ever going to be able to have a private visit with her ever again,” Crooks said. “She’s 90. There’s not much time left.”

The Stanislows are hoping the government will allow each facility to develop site-specific plans for visitor access.

“We want everybody to be safe, but we need to stop the one-size fits all approach because COVID is not going away right away,” Terry Stanislow said.

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston, who stopped to talk with the Stanislows outside Camp Hill, said the families are asking “questions that need to be looked at and answered.”

“The lack of investment in our seniors over the last seven, 10 years, it’s really come to light right here,” Houston said.

“(The pandemic) is going to cause us all to rethink how we treat our seniors and that’ll be the good thing that comes out of this.”

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