‘All we can do is hope’: Families fret after COVID-19 hits Gimli care home

By | April 2, 2020

Debbie Benson is praying for her mother after learning an employee at her personal care home has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

It’s been two days since Benson checked up on her mom, Anne Zaboroski, using FaceTime. She says the 91-year-old resident of Betel Home in Gimli looked healthy.

“She’s not showing any symptoms,” Benson said. 

“All we can do is hope and pray she doesn’t get it, and I can only hope that nobody in the building loses their life over it.”

On Thursday, Manitoba confirmed a worker at the Interlake long-term care home has COVID-19. Now, nine residents are showing symptoms of respiratory illness and are being tested for the novel coronavirus. 

This is the first confirmed case in a Manitoba long-term care home. 

Benson, a health-care aide who’s in quarantine after a trip out-of-province, said she received a call from the home on Wednesday alerting her of the situation.

She said she’s concerned for her mom’s health because she’s heard how quickly the virus has spread in other care homes in Canada.

Benson said she normally visits her mother so often, she’s “part of the furniture” at Betel Home. That’s why she’s also concerned about the worker who tested positive.

“I feel very sorry for them because obviously you don’t intentionally go to work knowing that you could test positive,” she said.

Isolating symptomatic residents not enough, says daughter

The province said the care home has its infection control protocols in place, and is isolating the affected residents.

Tanis Benson, Debbie’s sister-in-law, said she wants all residents to be isolated for their own protection.

95-year-old Harvey Benson poses while out for a walk with his family in Gimli. He’s wearing his housecoat he normally does in Betel Home — the care home where a worker was infected with COVID-19. (Submitted by Tanis Benson)

Tanis’s 95-year-old father, Harvey Benson, has been in Betel Home for three months. He’s asymptomatic right now, but has lung issues. She said Harvey likes to go for walks and eat dinner in the home’s communal areas.

“From what I’ve read and seen, people can be walking around with it, and not have symptoms yet. So if all the residents are continuing to walk around, the ones that aren’t symptomatic can be spreading it,” she said.

“The common areas are like us getting together with our neighbours for a group dinner, which we’re not supposed to be doing. So they shouldn’t be doing that either.”

Harvey Benson smiles in a photo with his daughter, Sherry Benson-Podolchuk. (Submitted by Tanis Benson)

For now, Tanis said she and her siblings will stay in touch with her father as much as they can. She said they understand how serious this virus is for seniors, but they have hope for their dad.

“He survived polio and tuberculosis. He’s such a tough guy. He’s only like 100 pounds right now, but he’s just tough,” she said.

“So I’m thinking that if he can stay isolated, he might survive this.”

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