Please: No More Screen Kissing

Like most of us, I find it incredibly difficult to think of our seniors, having worked so long and hard all their lives, banned from seeing their families.

We have to do better than that. I have an elderly aunt, in her 90s, who lives in such a facility in Hamilton. Now confined to her room, she sometimes wonders if she’ll die cooped up in her room, never again seeing the outside world, and sometimes it sounds like she’s stopped caring about the answer to that. As part of her family, it’s incredibly difficult to hear the sadness and loneliness in her voice.

So I can easily imagine how families with loved ones in the long-term facilities must have felt when they heard Ottawa had decided there would be no more window-waving.

It’s hard to imagine a message more badly handled locally during these COVID19 times than the directive to stop waving hello to loved ones through the windows of the city’s long-term care homes. Imagine. The city runs the Garry J. Armstrong, Peter D. Clark, Carleton Lodge and Champlain homes. Our seniors, who’ve worked so hard and long in their lives, were being cut off from a small loving and welcome wave from friends and family at their window during this seemingly never-ending seclusion.

The story of this evil edict went viral, of course. It even made international news, and had Ontario Premier Doug Ford crapping all over Ottawa. (Perhaps our local MPP Lisa MacLeod was advising him!)

I’m not really a big fan of politicians lashing out when another one fails, and Ford would have been wise to check his facts before spouting off. But again, back to the horrendous messaging. Dean Lett, the city’s director of long-term care, told the media the ban on window waving wasn’t supposed to upset anyone, but it was felt the city needed to protect the approximate 700 who live in Ottawa’s long-term care homes. I’ve always had a bit of problem when people suggest they didn’t intend to be callous or hurtful. How about you consider your actions and think what the reaction might be.

For reasons that are still hard to understand, Lett didn’t talk to either our medical officer of health Vera Etches or Ottawa Public Health. It’s all really too bad, which makes me feel bad for Lett – who I’m sure was shocked at the visceral reaction from the seniors stuck in isolation and the people who love them.

It would seem Lett simply overreacted, no doubt after being in contact with management at the city’s long-term care facilities. Seems some family members were actually kissing their loved ones either on the window or actually trough the screen. Seriously? Even without a pandemic – and I’m not a germaphobe – but that should appear to all of us to obviously be a really bad idea.

And following the public announcement, of course, the public and many city councillors were all too willing to jump all over the decision.  Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has ordered staff running the long-term care facilities to find some better solutions which should allow seniors and their families to see each other once again.

Of course, the kissing through the screens or on the windows wasn’t the only issue.  When some family members people visited, and residents went outside, families weren’t social distancing. And that really should have been the message.

Keep your distance. It’s as simple as that.

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