Fran and Patty Perkins haven’t seen their 96-year-old mom in person in 133 days.
The last the sisters saw her was in late March, just as the COVID lockdown occurred, when she returned to St. Hilda’s Vaughan residence from a hospital stay of several months and was quite “disoriented.”
Although 30-minute weekly visits started in late June in three areas of the home, Fran says their mom — whose name they don’t want used — prefers not to do it because she’s “just horrified” at the way she looks, particularly the state of her hair.
Mom is used to getting her hair done once a week and she’s “very proud,” says Patty.
Fran says their mom would be OK with her daughters seeing her in her room — which they have not been permitted to do — but she won’t leave her room and do a social distanced visit in masks, also because she won’t be able to hear.
She adds that they even bought mom a wig.
But mom has so much hair, the wig won’t go on without help and only one person assisted her and put it on well. Another worker put it on crooked and her hair was sticking out, they said.
They say her nails aren’t being cut and none of the things they normally do for her are being done for her, either.
They said mom is not leaving her room at all right now because she’s “embarrassed.”
She’s also lost weight during the COVID pandemic and is really feeling isolated.
“We are frustrated that we can’t help her … we can’t give her the personal care we always have and nobody else can,” says Fran. “They won’t let us in.”
To compensate, Fran says they’ve taken to going once a week and dropping off clean laundry and diapers for her just inside the lobby of the home.
Wearing masks, they call their mother on their cellphones from the lobby, from where she can see them on her television via the security camera right by the door.
The two sisters had been doing this for a few weeks when, asking the home’s receptionist if they could call their mom under the camera and being told: “Sure.”
But last Thursday, the facility’s director of nursing, Tabatha Howard, turned up and told them to leave, that they are “breaking St. Hilda’s policies.”
Fran said Howard never cited which policy and it isn’t contained in any of the home’s COVID guidelines.
“She didn’t want us there,” the sisters said, adding that nobody else was there and they weren’t harming anyone.
They had no choice but to leave — shortly after mom called and asked why they left without saying goodbye, they say.
“We told her why and she started crying,” Patty said.
I called Howard, and two other home administrators, including the CEO, for comment.
Richard Noonan, a consultant with Gray Wave Advisory — the operations management company charged with an upcoming St. Hilda’s renovation plan — called back insisting that they’ve been trying to stay on top of COVID-19 since Jan. 14.
He noted that they implemented measures prior to the health ministry’s directives.
When I asked him to respond about last Thursday’s incident, he kept insisting that the sisters could visit their mom in a private climate-controlled lounge.
He said they were told they cannot visit their mom in her suite.
When I reiterated that I was asking for comment on last Thursday’s incident, he said he wasn’t there to see the “delivery of the message” (by Howard).
But he said the invitation is there to meet with the two sisters.
“It’s unfortunate anyone is upset,” he said. “We understand the stress families are under … but the first duty of care is to the people who live and work there.”