MPP wants Ford to declare care givers essential in long term and group homes

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Lisa Gretzky says people in long term care and group homes need their essential care givers and they need them now.
The Windsor area MPP says the Ford government ignoring the advice of health care professionals and the pleas of families to allow essential care givers back into Ontario’s long term care homes. In many cases, essential care givers are family members who have power of attorney over their care.
March 13, the Ford government closed all long term care and group homes to visitors in the effort to stop COVID-19. However even with the drastic step, nearly 70 per cent of the people in Ontario who have died from COVID-19 lived in long term care homes.
Just recently, the province allowed outdoor and indoor visits with restrictions.
“What was it all for?” asked Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, Associate Teaching Professor at Ontario Tech University during a Monday news conference. “After four months….the goal of keeping residents safe by removing them from essential care givers failed; in fact it made them more vulnerable.”
Stamatopoulos adds essential care givers are “a critical source of labour” in homes and “a demonstrated safe guard against abuse.”
Gretzky says while families were able to talk to residents by phone or video links, that isn’t good enough. “Not everyone has the ability to communicate by phone…for some, it has to be that in person contact,” she says.
Pam Libralesso agrees. Her 14 year-old non-verbal son lives in a group home in the Toronto area. Normally, he sees his brother at school and his family on weekends. He communicates, she says, by touch – giving family members a blanket when he’s tired or taking their hand and bringing them to the refrigerator when he’s hungry.
Libralesso hasn’t seen her son since March 13. She’s confident his physical needs are being met, but is worried he is not getting the chance to communicate.
Gretzky says seniors with dementia are in the same boat and need family on hand.
“We are pushing the government to immediately implement a COVID-19 Essential Caregiver Plan which would recognize that essential caregivers – often family members – are more than just visitors, and that individuals have the right to access their essential caregivers in their agreed upon, preferred manner,” she says in a motion introduced in the Ontario Legislature Monday.
The plan would also make sure the provincial government has to consult essential care givers when making changes. And Gretzky says those changes should never prevent people from having access to their essential care givers, even in a pandemic.
Gretzky says the government has to work with families and unions to develop a plan to make sure essential care givers are seen as support in the nursing homes.