'It was just too much for him': Saskatoon woman says father’s death was the result of loneliness during COVID-19
SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon woman is reminding people to check on their loved ones during the pandemic — especially those living at long-term care homes.
Donna Hunchak’s 84-year father died on Aug. 12 after going months without seeing his family during lockdown.
“We were limited in the beginning and I understand why — it was to keep everyone safe. But it was just too much for him. He’s a family guy. He needs companionship and family around him,” Hunchak said.
She said her father, Alfred Schmidt, did not have COVID-19 but feels his death was the result of loneliness and sadness he experienced during lockdown.
At the time, he was living at Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon. His family wasn’t able to visit for about two months due to provincial health and safety restrictions.
Hunchak said while she and her family did phone and video calls with him, it still took a toll.
“Once I was able to see him, you could see that he was starting to lose a lot of weight and getting very thin and frail and just generally very disoriented and confused,” she said.
Hunchak said that never improved.
Shan Landry, a member of the Saskatoon Council on Aging and an advocate for families of those living in long-term care, said it’s a story she’s heard before, especially with people who have chronic illness and cognitive disabilities.
“Human touch and the warmth of engagement with somebody who is by your side and while you might not remember who they are or you may not be able to communicate in standard ways, that person or set of people that is close to you becomes vital in your quality of life.”
Staff at Sherbrooke Community Centre have been working to lift residents’ spirits during the pandemic and help alleviate what they call plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
“Trying to bring as much life and vibrancy and interesting things as possible to day to day life and so lots of music, small art areas, we have small gym areas and exercise areas. Barbecues, games,” said Kim Schmidt, leader of resident care services at Sherbrooke.
As of right now, the care home is offering physically distanced indoor and outdoor visits with family as well as video calls on Zoom and Skype.
Hunchak said Sherbrooke would always call to let her know when her father was feeling lonely.
She said she does not blame them for what her father went through. Instead, she’s encouraging people to keep an eye on their loved ones during this time.
“Check on them. Even if it’s just a phone call. Really talk to them, get them to open up to you. And make sure they know that if they’re feeling down, they can always call you.”