Add vulnerable seniors to the list of those Point Roberts residents greatly impacted by the current US/Canada border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s according to Point Roberts Circle of Care, a non-profit volunteer service that connects residents with volunteer and professional services so they can stay in their homes and community for as long as possible.
“When the border closures were implemented, approximately 30 of our elderly, disabled and ill residents lost the ongoing care and support of their Canadian families,” explained Galen Wood, board president of Circle of Care. “While Circle of Care volunteers were able to step in to provide some assistance to these residents, the border closing prevents us from ensuring the residents have ongoing access to appropriate care.”
Many of Circle of Care’s clients are dual citizens and have long-standing relationships with doctors in B.C. or Mainland Washington State. Although a family member living in Canada might be able to cross the border into Point Roberts for the “essential” purpose of caring for their loved one or to take them to medical appointments, they would then have to meet the 14-day quarantine requirement upon their return to Canada, making it impossible for them to offer regular support.
“The longer these restrictions are in place, the more concerns we have about the ongoing health and safety of these residents,” said executive director Annelle Norman. “Not only are they feeling isolated from their families, they are also unable to receive the medical assistance they need.”
As an example, Norman notes an elderly couple that moved to Point Roberts several years ago to be closer to family and to downsize their cost-of-living expenses. He began experiencing transient ischemic attacks (TIA) back in February and March 2020 and was airlifted to Bellingham Hospital numerous times.
They have four adult children in B.C. and it took weeks of bureaucracy to get permission for each of them to come see him, one at a time, but following these visits, each family member had to take vacation time/sick days from work in order to meet quarantine requirements upon their return to B.C. They have now exhausted their discretionary time off from their jobs, leaving the man’s elderly wife bearing the responsibility of full-time care. Circle of Care provides some support, but is limited in the services they can provide.
“There are other elderly residents with serious end-of-life conditions who are unable to see their family members who are living in Canada. The mental impacts of isolation on these residents is traumatic,” Norman noted. “These tragedies are what we deal with on a daily basis, and it’s distressing. These residents need the love and support of their families.”