An Abbotsford woman whose dad is one of the 25 COVID-19-related deaths at Tabor Home has nothing but praise for the staff who work there.
Josey McIntosh said she feels that workers at the facility have unfairly received “a lot of negative feedback” in the midst of what has become B.C.’s largest outbreak at a long-term care home.
McIntosh said she and her family are “very happy” with the care that her dad, David Thiessen, received during his time at Tabor Home.
She said the staff are to be commended for “putting their lives, and that of their families, at risk every time they walk in that door” during the outbreak.
“I feel that the staff are very caring, and they’re very compassionate. (Some of) the residents have been there a long time, and they’re like family to them,” said McIntosh, a former nurse who worked at Menno Hospital for many years.
Her dad was recently featured in an Abbotsford News article for Remembrance Day. Thiessen was a Second World War veteran who celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 11 this year.
He first moved to Tabor Court in 2013, and then to Tabor Home five years later when his health worsened, including the onset of dementia.
Thiessen’s family had hoped to have a celebration for his birthday. But due to COVID-19 restrictions that limit inside visits to one family member once a week, only McIntosh had expected to be able to go into the home and hoped that other family members could visit at the window.
But because even window visits are curtailed during COVID outbreaks, the family wasn’t sure they would get to see Thiessen at all on his birthday. (The outbreak began Nov. 4.)
However, McIntosh said Tabor Home staff went out of their way to make the day special. She said 37 family members, following social-distancing protocols, were permitted to gather outside a window.
They carried big “Happy Birthday!” signs and balloons, and each family group was able to talk to Thiessen on the phone.
“He recognized us all, and just seemed to enjoy the whole celebration,” McIntosh said.
She said after the celebration, staff took all the balloons and posters and put them up in Thiessen’s room.
McIntosh said it was 11 days later – on Nov. 22 – that she got a phone call to inform her that her dad had contracted the virus. She said it was a difficult call to receive, even though she had been “half expecting” it because so many residents were testing positive. (As of Dec. 14, 93 residents and 63 staff – 156 total cases – had tested positive since the start of the outbreak, and there were seven active cases.)
McIntosh said her dad didn’t have any symptoms for the first couple of days, but then he developed overwhelming fatigue.
“That’s what took him down. He didn’t have the fever or the heart problems, difficulty breathing or anything that some people have. He was just so tired and then stayed in bed more and ate less, and it took its toll that way,” she said.
In the days leading up to her dad’s death on Dec. 5, McIntosh said she was in contact every day with staff at Tabor Home. If her dad was able, she would talk to him on the phone or have a video chat.
One nurse took a picture of Thiessen on her cellphone and sent it to McIntosh.
As Thiessen’s health worsened and the end was drawing near, McIntosh said the family had to decide whether they would sit by his bedside.
But McIntosh and her husband both have compromised immune systems. Their daughter is a licensed practical nurse in Mission and her son is a care aide in Abbotsford, and they didn’t want to risk contracting the virus.
They made the difficult decision to forgo bedside visits, and the staff arranged to transfer Thiessen to a room with a window that was accessible from the parking lot.
“They brought his whole bed there, and they put up some of the cards and pictures on the wall so that if he did open his eyes it would look like he was still in his room,” McIntosh said.
A nurse held a phone to Thiessen’s ear so that the family could say their goodbyes and sing and pray to him.
McIntosh said her dad did not seem to be in a lot of pain or distress, and he died peacefully. She said his death is “a sad time, but also joyful.”
“I know he’s in Heaven, and that’s where he wanted to go.”
The family now plans to bury Thiessen’s ashes in Manitoba, where he was born and lived until 1987, when he came to B.C. with his second wife, Margaret. His first wife (and McIntosh’s mom), Liddy, who died in 1977, is buried in Manitoba.
A memorial service will wait until restrictions are lifted that limit the number of people who can attend.