QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West) will table a motion in the Legislature on Monday, urging the Ford government to immediately implement a COVID-19 Essential Caregiver Strategy that recognizes essential caregivers as more than just visitors, and gives residents in long-term care, groups homes and all congregate care settings the right to fully access their essential caregivers and support persons while giving congregate settings the resources they need to safely implement this.
“The stories I have heard from families during this pandemic are heartbreaking. They’ve told me that the limited access to their loved ones through phone calls or window visits has been painful, and for some, simply not feasible. It’s been four months, and some haven’t been able to see their loved ones at all,” said Gretzky. “We need action today.”
Gretzky’s motion also states that any future policies regarding essential caregivers must be made in consultation with residents, patients, families, experts, and workers.
Advocacy groups and experts including the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, and the National Institute on Ageing, have all released detailed plans in recent weeks, urging the safe return of essential caregivers and support persons back into congregate care settings.
“Essential caregivers are family members and support persons who perform a crucial role as partners in care and support. Yet the Ford government has created ‘visitation’ policies that exclude them, and are confusing, inconsistent and, in reality, difficult to roll out. This is clearly because residents, patients, families, experts, and staff are not at the table to share their vital insight and feedback.”
Gretzky was joined at a press conference today by family caregiving researcher and expert Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, and two essential caregivers, Pamela Libralesso and Susan Mills, who have been denied meaningful, appropriate access to their family members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Libralesso has not seen her 14 year old son who lives in a group home for children with disabilities in over four months, and Mills has not been able to provide care and support for her elderly mother, a resident of a long-term care home.
“As the pandemic continues, and as we prepare for a potential second wave, Premier Doug Ford can no longer ignore or overlook the health and happiness of residents in congregate care settings, and their rights to have access to their essential caregivers. The time to act is now. I am urging the Ford government to support this motion and respect the rights of individuals and their essential caregivers that have been denied for far too long.”
Video of today’s press conference: https://youtu.be/FOBfu3VAXjE?t=87
Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, Associate Teaching Professor at Ontario Tech University whose research specializes in family caregiving
“Our government failed to adequately balance the potential risk of transmission against the certain harms of isolation. I stand with the many healthcare associations, representing both frontline workers in these facilities and also those representing the interests of seniors and persons with disabilities, who have formally demanded that the Ford government end the ongoing systematic exclusion of family caregivers from care teams.”
Pamela Libralesso, mother and caregiver to her 14 year old son who lives in a group home for children with disabilities
“With each new revision of visitor guidelines, there has been a consistent failure to recognize essential caregivers, which deprives children and adults like my son their access to their support person, caregiver, substitute decision makers, and as in our case, their parents. This motion is an important first step in ensuring that the rights of disabled individuals in group living settings are protected now, and will not be ignored in the future.”
Susan Mills, caregiver to her mother who is a resident of a long-term care home
“As an essential caregiver, I provided one on one care for my mom, for example, doing her hair so she would feel good, slowing her down when eating, discussing world events, cognitive exercises, calming her anxiety, but most importantly keeping her life story relevant to her. Residents in long-term care, like my mom, deserve not only to be kept safe and protected from COVID, but to be also able to have a quality of life - we must find the balance, that takes into account the overall well-being of any resident.”