Katrina Prescott, left, poses for a photo with her mother Kathryn Love in this undated handout photo before her mother’s dementia worsened significantly. Katrina Prescott came up with a set of strict COVID-19 rules for health-care experts coming into the house to look after her mother, Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Katrina Prescott *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Katrina Prescott, left, poses for a photo with her mother Kathryn Love in this undated handout photo before her mother’s dementia worsened significantly. Katrina Prescott came up with a set of strict COVID-19 rules for health-care experts coming into the house to look after her mother, Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Katrina Prescott *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Waiting for treatment taking toll on patients with chronic illnesses

Thousands of patients across the country have had procedures postponed due to the pandemic

Jill Fletcher has spent much of the last year waiting to have both knees replaced while dealing with “brutal” pain after her cortisone shots were reduced to every six months from three to prevent further deterioration of the little cartilage she has left.

“I’ve been in a wheelchair. I may end up there again before I get going on this,” she said of the delay in scheduling her surgery, which would involve the removal of a plate and five screws in each knee from previous operations due to a condition since childhood that resulted in malformed knees.

“Before COVID, it was ‘OK, I can just phone, get things set up and it’ll be in four months.’ Now I have no idea,” she said from Renfrew, Ont., about an hour’s drive west of Ottawa.

“It’s just throwing everything off. It’s harder to see the family doctor. I haven’t had a physical either. That was cancelled as well.”

Fletcher, 58, is among thousands of patients across the country whose procedures have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, resulting in more physical and emotional distress.

She said the wait for a risky surgery weighs heavily on her husband and their two sons who still live at home and help out with more chores but also worry about her declining health.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit uncomfortable being in a hospital during COVID, too,” Fletcher said of travelling to Ottawa for the procedure. She also feels vulnerable until she has been vaccinated, but that may not happen in Renfrew for her age group until August.

Support programs for chronically ill patients are an essential part of their care, said Eileen Dooley, CEO of HealthPartners,a collaboration of 16 health charities such as the Alzheimer Society, Parkinson Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

HealthPartners commissioned an online survey of 3,000 people, including 1,144 with a chronic condition or major illness, and found the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on patients, 43 per cent of whose treatment has been cancelled or postponed, affecting their quality of life.

It was conducted by Abacus Data between Jan. 9 and 13 and showed 67 per cent of caregivers said they were less healthy overall due to their increased burden, versus 60 per cent of the patients and 57 per cent of all Canadians.

For the total number of respondents, the survey is accurate to within 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. It’s accurate to within 2.8 percentage points for the patients, and 4.2 per cent for caregivers.

Dooley said the charities that connect patients and families, provide transportation to appointments and information on community services have been hit hard by a loss of donations, many of which fund research.

“They provide a real buffer between the formal health-care system and Canadians in terms of being on the front line for support: letting people know where to get assistance, connecting them with others who’ve had their disease, providing transportation.”

Dooley called on federal and provincial governments to provide funding for charities as part of the overall effort to bolster supports for Canadians in multiple sectors that have also suffered financially during the pandemic.

It’s not just patients themselves who are affected by delays in treatment and interruptions in support programs — the survey for HealthPartners, says 524 caregivers also responded and that 53 per cent of them reported the pandemic affected their mental health.

Katrina Prescott of Vancouver was so afraid that a visiting health-care worker would transmit COVID-19 to her mother that she ensured everyone coming to their home knew about “the rules” — her strict safety precautions.

A nurse practitioner, a nurse who specializes in wound care, a rehabilitation assistant, a home-support worker and a physiotherapist are among those caring for 69-year-old Kathryn Love, who suffers from dementia and is at high risk of contracting the virus.

Prescott required them to place belongings in a plastic bin and immediately head to the bathroom, disinfect any surfaces they’d touched before washing their hands for 20 seconds and don personal protective equipment, including gloves, which would have to be washed often or cleaned with alcohol.

“When the whole thing happened I thought ‘how the heck am I going to let people come in here?’ It was a 911. So I came up with a system,” she said.

Prescott made the“really stressful decision” to continue having health-care workers in the house as some others in a similar situation cancelled services to eliminate the possibility of their loved ones being infected, she said.

Losing that support would have left her as the only round-the-clock caregiver, which she considered “unimaginable for my survival.”

She worried about not having any respite, let alone having time for sleep, a shower or cooking a meal.

Even with help, the emotional strain of caring for a family member who is unable to walk or talk took such a toll on the Vancouver resident that she got extra counselling online.

Prescott said the mental-health implications on caregivers who juggle multiple responsibilities for their chronically or seriously ill loved ones are overwhelming at any time, but a year of greater-than-usual isolation has brought people to the breaking point.

Sherri Mytopher was diagnosed in 2013 with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common form of the disease that is characterized by a range of unpredictable symptoms including, like in her case, fatigue and numbness in the hands, arms and legs.

An annual appointment with a neurologist who travels from Vancouver to her northern British Columbia city of Fort St. John was expected last May or June but was put off until October, when it was done over Zoom, said Mytopher, 40, who volunteers with a regional chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which offers support to patients and families.

“I felt frustrated,” she said of her concerns about the lack of a physical assessment to gauge the progression of her disease, adding stress is the biggest contributor to flare-ups of her symptoms.

“There’s a fear that came with it, like ‘When will I get answers to the questions I have?”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Delta Police Department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit: (from left) Const. Joel Thirsk, analyst Jody Johnson and Staff Sgt. Sukh Sidhu. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police respond to rising number of hate crimes

Police have received 15 reports so far in 2021, compared to 12 in all of 2020

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

(Photo: Creative Outlet)
YOUR MONEY: Tax tips for a complicated tax season involving CERB and more

With April 30 tax deadline, ‘it is important to understand the tax implications (benefits) will have’

This map illustrates the number of active COVID-19 cases in Greater Vancouver from April 4 to 10, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
Active COVID-19 case in Delta hit new high

262 cases for the week of April 4 to 10, most since BC CDC began releasing weekly city-level data

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read