A Semiahmoo Peninsula man whose elderly father is recovering after a bout with COVID-19 is concerned for other isolated seniors battling the virus at home, after learning how Fraser Health is supporting some of those patients.
Jeff Garrad told Peace Arch News earlier this month that in late February, his 87-year-old father went to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock after not feeling well for a few days. During a follow-up phone call a few days later, the senior – now back at home, where he lives alone – learned he had tested positive for COVID-19.
And while his dad is now “fortunately on the mend,” Garrad told PAN he was surprised at the lack of follow-up calls from medical professionals that his father – who also suffers from a condition called dysphagia, in which swallowed food can end up in a person’s lungs – received.
He noted a colleague, who is in his 60s, received daily calls from a nurse while battling the virus last year.
Fraser Health officials told PAN that the health authority changed some of its procedures over time, as more was learned about the virus and its impacts. However, “assistance remains available to everyone,” a spokesperson said.
Garrad said early in his father’s 14-day quarantine period, they received calls from contact tracers, but noted that “any medical information provided was basically in the form of a (PDF).” The documents, he noted, “contained mostly information already known from watching the news.”
“I was advised to watch for symptoms for my father. Trick is, most of the symptoms described are things 87-year-olds experience every day,” Garrad said.
“So I was left without medical monitoring to assess my dad’s symptoms and severity of his condition, while having a virus that seems to specialize in killing people exactly like him – old with pre-existing conditions.
“There were no calls from any medically qualified people from Fraser Health to monitor my Dad’s condition – that apparently was up to me. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t even been there. I wonder how many other 87 year-olds with COVID have been left to self-monitor a pandemic disease that may very well kill them?”
Garrad said when he recently asked a contact-tracing supervisor why more medical follow-ups were not being done, he was told that “we no longer make those calls to COVID patients.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have learned a lot about the virus, including how it impacts patients and how patients need to be supported. This knowledge has helped us refine our support for patients and the services we provide,” Fraser Health’s Aletta Vanderheyden told PAN by email.
“Over the past year, we have learned that not all people with COVID-19 need daily phone calls as many are able to follow instructions provided by the contact tracing team and can seek medical support if needed.
“Currently, we support up to 500 calls daily from people who are at home with COVID-19,” she added.
Garrad noted that his dad was lucky to have someone stay with him and care for him, but reiterated that not all seniors or vulnerable people have the same luxury.
“This whole series of events had me thinking about others in Dad’s situation who were not so lucky, and makes me wonder how many of them have been included in the very high case count and COVID death numbers in Fraser Health,” he said.