LEVY: Elderly parents take a back seat yet again

COVID-19-Diane Colangelo visits her 86-year-old mother Patricia through a window at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering on Wednesday April 22, 2020. Both daughter and mother were in tears. Veronica Henri / Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

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This weekend — like all Ontario residents with elderly parents  — I will spend my time worrying about the decline of my mom and dad while they are isolated in senior’s facilities, from which visitors have been banned since mid-March.

But as the province starts to reopen, I could attend one of protests against black racism and police brutality slated to send throngs to downtown Toronto Saturday, if I so choose.

Let’s be perfectly clear here, I have nothing against the protests, as long as they are safe and there’s no looting of innocent businesses.

I am absolutely appalled by the events south of the border.

And the lack of social distancing is also a concern.

Our politicians, who have a very short attention span, are yet again forgetting those who are suffering tremendously while warehoused in seniors and long-term care homes.

And I’m not even referring to the 1,600-plus who have tragically lost their lives to COVID-19. I’m talking about those who have been isolated from their family and their essential caregivers since mid-March.

I’m beginning to wonder if our politicians — particularly those at Queen’s Park — are completely tone deaf to the needs of the elderly.

Or, having been caught with no plan for long-term care homes from the get-go, perhaps they’re simply too afraid to open them up now.

It seems prisoners — many who’ve received their Get Out of Jail Free Card in the past two months — have had more rights during this pandemic.

Not even the release of a Canadian military report on May 26 highlighting horrible abuse and neglect in five long-term care (LTC) homes around Ontario and most recent accounts that the 30 worse senior’s homes in the province make up half of the Coronavirus deaths have fuelled efforts to do better for seniors.

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I’m referring to the here and now, not when some Commission reports.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton has been virtually missing in action as more and more tragic tales of abuse and neglect are unveiled and family caregivers beg to be permitted to have access to their parent or parents.

Veronica Gerber, Robin Nelson, Anil Reddi, Meryle Lee Kates, Sandra Tierney — these are just a few of the concerned children of elderly people who’ve expressed their utter frustration at being denied access to their parent or being told their caregivers are banned from looking after their compromised parent, often with dementia.

In the eight weeks I’ve been writing about this ban, I’ve heard that families are noticing cognitive declines, that their parent is unkempt, and unshaven, that he or she cries at the window, that he or she doesn’t recognize their children and that they are experiencing infections from uncut toe nails or untreated incontinence.

Advocates call it tantamount to elder abuse.

The great irony is that the Ministry of Health’s own directive of May 6 included family caregivers as essential visitors to LTC homes.

Yet homes continue to deny access, passing the buck back to the province — and Premier Doug Ford, Fullerton and Health Minister Christine Elliott are loathe to read LTC homes the Riot Act.

It’s a true case of the tail wagging the dog.

These frustrated families do not take to the streets to protest.

They write e-mails to Ford, Fullerton and Elliott. They have taken to Facebook and Twitter and have formed groups because they believe they have a stronger voice in numbers.

And they continue to pray that one of these days in the near future their pleas will be heard.

SLevy@postmedia.com

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