‘It’s devastating:’ Home care services for Edmonton seniors reduced amid COVID-19 pandemic

It’s an uncertain time for Edna Ketcher.

The Edmonton senior is not able to do much because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk of severe symptoms from the virus.

To add to the stress, Ketcher was told this week her shower assistance has been cancelled.

“That kind of shook me a little bit to say the least,” she said.

“I really can’t understand why they would stop us having showers.”

Ketcher has osteoporosis and noted it would be difficult to do it herself.

“That would be very damaging,” she said.

The Rosslyn Place Lodge resident also has a catheter. To look after that, she does have home care come in the morning and evening.

She was told her shower, however, is a non-essential service.

“I was surprised they don’t deem a weekly shower as essential care,” Ketcher’s daughter, Angela Coburn said.

“It’s devastating,” Ketcher added.

Now visitors are not allowed in Ketcher’s building, unless it’s to help a parent shower.

According to the Alberta government website, “visitors to any continuing care or long-term care facility in Alberta are limited to a single individual designated by the resident or guardian.”

Alberta Health Services calls these “extraordinary times.”

“We are simply unable to provide healthcare the way we usually do,” AHS said in a statement.

“Some clients will not receive bathing support as frequently as they are used to, and our staff will work with families to provide assistance with showers and bathing wherever possible.”

AHS noted, like other areas of the healthcare system, staffing is a challenge, because people are self-isolating, or staying at home to look after their kids.

“Home Care staff are working closely with each client to discuss potential impacts and to determine what essential services still need to be provided,” the statement said.

“Our healthcare system is strained to the absolute maximum,” said Dr. Mark Joffe, AHS medical director for northern Alberta.

“At the moment, my advice would be for individuals to see if they can arrange… some back-up plans whether there are relatives, friends, loved ones who might be able to help out with some of the activities that are currently provided by home care.”

Coburn lives two hours away and noted she doesn’t believe she has the training to ensure her mother “has a shower in an appropriate fashion.”

We spoke to the daughter of another senior going through a similar situation. They were told this week all shower assistance had been cancelled.

Kathy — whose last name we are not sharing to protect her father’s privacy — told Global News “because my dad lives with his wife and there’s family support close by they have to prioritize clients who are living alone with no family.”

Kathy’s mother, however, is 90 years old. She’s visually impaired and hard of hearing.

“Her load is increasing greatly,” she said.

“There are so many ways the vulnerable are being greatly impacted.”

For now, her family has found a solution. Through the power of social media, they connected with a nurse on maternity leave willing to help.

They’re taking it day by day and recognize AHS is overwhelmed — but she said the entire situation has been hard for her.

“I feel like this is all on me to keep them healthy and alive and the supports that used to be there before are no longer there,” she said.

As for Ketcher and her daughter, they are not sure what to do and would like to see things go back.

“Leaving people dirty and unhygienic is not the solution,” Coburn said.

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