Beginning Thursday (April 1st) Long term care and assisted living facilities will be making a few amendments to the visiting rules currently in place.

Residents will be able to have frequent opportunities to visit with up to two adult visitors (2 adults + 1 child) for a minimum of one hour with contact.

Currently, residents are only allowed one or two visits a week, lasting about 20 minutes each.

That’s according to BC Senior’s Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, who says these current guidelines are leading to more seniors relying on pharmaceutical help.

“We see very clear evidence of the impact when we look at the dramatic increase of prescribing of antipsychotics during the pandemic, it’s quite alarming,” explains Mackenzie.

She says there has been a 10% increase in the prescription of antipsychotics in care homes since the onset of the pandemic, which is the largest increase Mackenzie has ever seen in a 12-month period.

Being able to make contact with loved ones is going to have a major impact on the overall well-being of residents, especially those without their husbands or wives.

“If you think about the husbands or wives that have spent 70 years sleeping six inches away from somebody and for the past year you’ve been six feet away and unable to touch them – that is going to have an effect on both the resident and the caregiver,” Mackenzie said.

Additionally, Mackenzie says the allowance of physical contact within these visits is going to make a big impact on those battling Dementia in care facilities.

“The physical touch can have a very therapeutic, calming effect on somebody with Dementia,” she notes, “but also, they might not understand why their wife has to be six feet away from them.”

She says there have been circumstances over the past year where the visits with Dementia patients have done more harm than good because the resident is often left agitated and confused about the rules.

Overall, the changes will benefit the resident’s mental health and wellbeing, however, Mackenzie says residents might feel some anxiety surrounding the changes with the rising COVID-19 case counts.

“It’s possible that residents will feel some anxiety but all residents of long-term care have been offered a vaccine, most have taken the vaccine and the majority have had their second dose,” Mackenzie noted.

The vaccine uptake has led to a dramatic drop in outbreaks within long-term and assisted living facilities in BC, and there are only two active long-term care outbreaks.

Mackenzie says the high vaccine uptake and drops in outbreaks will ease a lot of the anxiety that would’ve come with restrictions being eased earlier on.