By Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph Journal
Karen McLeod is a resident of British Columbia, but has been living in Sackville since November, caring for her mother, Dodie, who has dementia.
This month, she planned to head home to her seasonal job as a deckhand with B.C. Ferries, while one of her siblings came to New Brunswick to look after their mom. Now, both she and her mother are limbo after her siblings were denied entry into the province under a compassionate care exemption to pandemic restrictions.
“I’m trying to remain calm, but I’m quite stressed,” McLeod said.
“I really don’t know what I’ll do. If I have to stay I will,” she said, while acknowledging that may have consequences to her job in B.C.
McLeod came to New Brunswick, her childhood home, last fall to care for both her parents. Her mother, 89, can no longer live alone. Her father, who died in February, was a resident of the Drew Nursing Home. When pandemic restrictions closed care homes to the public, she got a housekeeping job at the Drew so she could continue to physically care for her father, a decision she’s glad she made.
The plan was for her to stay in New Brunswick until spring, when one of her siblings would take over, McLeod said. But the government has denied entry to both of her siblings, who are also not New Brunswick residents, even if they follow all required isolation procedures.
When the compassionate care request was denied, McLeod called the province and/or wrote to the travel registration email listed by the government, every advocacy organization she could think of and the Red Cross. She then wrote to multiple ministers and politicians, outlining why she was appealing the decision and seeking their response. As of Wednesday at noon, she had received responses from Sackville-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton as well as Green Party Leader David Coon. But the denial remained in place.
McLeod said she was told by border personnel that entry might be possible if one of her siblings was willing to come to the province for three months straight, but given their work schedules, the family planned to have one sibling come for June and another to take over in July, she said.
This Times & Transcript asked the Department of Public Safety to clarify this policy, but they did not respond by press time.
While her mother receives some home care, it isn’t the 24-hour care she needs, McLeod said. The family has looked into hiring a caregiver, but has had difficulty finding someone available to provide this type of service in the area, and she fears her mom may be disoriented having people in her home she doesn’t recognize.
“She needs constant care,” McLeod said, noting leaving her alone overnight is not an option.
Mitton said after government tightened restrictions on compassionate care, she is too often seeing cases where one of her constituents’ care is in jeopardy. “We don’t have an excess of care and home-care workers in our community,” she said, adding this was the case even before the pandemic.
McLeod said she does not see how denials like her family experienced align with the province’s “Home First” strategy which promotes providing care to seniors in their own homes as the most appropriate and cost-effective solution.
Mitton said she has been advocating since January for the province to look at compassionate care exemptions and make changes so noone is cut off from their care support, but few exemptions have been. She said she is seeing cases similar to this every week and her community is particularly suffering given how many people in the region usually receive care from someone on the other side of the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border who are being told they cannot cross unless their relative has died or is palliative.
Coreen Enos, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said an appeal process does exist. “In cases where travel registration is denied, there is a process available to have the traveller’s application to travel into New Brunswick reviewed. Travellers must reach out by email at TravelRegistration.EnregistrementVoyage↕gnb.ca or call 1-833-948-2800.”
That has not yet resulted in a change for McLeod. Enos said she could not comment on specific cases.
Social workers through the department of Social Development are available for families to explore care options whether that be in a long-term care or home care options, said Enos.
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