When Kathryn Butler Malette learned her younger sister was diagnosed with COVID-19, she was confronted with a waking nightmare: that her beloved sibling might die alone.
While Ontario’s government has said facilities can allow end-of-life visits, Butler Malette said she was told the Ottawa-area long-term care home where her sister lives didn’t want to chance it, given the magnitude of the outbreak they were experiencing.
“I was there when my mother passed away. I was holding her when she passed away. And the thought that I could not be there for my sister, I couldn’t bear it. I could not bear the thought of it,” she said.
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Experts and insiders say that palliative care, which focuses on comfort, has become less of a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to visitor restrictions and even bans born out of staffing shortages and a need to limit exposure to the virus.
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But some say it’s time to loosen those restrictions and find a balance between keeping everyone safe and allowing dying patients to say goodbye to their loved ones.
Butler Malette’s mother had also lived in that same long-term care home until her death last year,