A new documentary takes a look at what happened when COVID-19 tore through three Lower Mainland seniors homes during the worst phases of the pandemic, including at Langley Lodge.
The documentary, entitled Crisis in Care, follows the spread of COVID through care homes in B.C., with a particular focus on three of the worst outbreaks – Lynn Valley Care Centre on the North Shore, Langley Lodge, and Tabor Village in Abbotsford.
The Oct. 30 release of the film, which has already won Best Canadian Documentary at the Toronto Independent Film Festival of CIFT, will be on the Apple and Google platforms online.
Director David Hurford and his crew spoke to people who were in charge at the care homes, as well as to front line care providers, researchers, and seniors advocates.
“It was a story of heroism and sacrifice,” Hurford said.
One of the stories the film explores is the death of Warlito Valdez, the first care worker to die of COVID-19 in B.C.
He died at his Richmond home, 11 days into a 14-day quarantine after he caught the virus working at a home for developmentally disabled adults.
The Langley Lodge outbreak was for a time one of the worst in B.C.
An early outbreak was quickly quashed, but in the spring of 2020, COVID sickened 51 of the Lodge’s approximately 140 residents, and 25 of those infected died.
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For a time, it was the worst outbreak in terms of deaths in B.C., but other care homes later saw even higher death tolls during the second wave in the fall.
“At the very beginning, we were on our own,” said Debra Hauptman, the now-retired CEO who oversaw the Lodge during the first several waves of COVID.
Care homes were scrambling for scarce personal protection equipment (PPE) and the staffing shortages they had been trying to address for years were suddenly a major emergency.
The care homes were not allowed to transfer sick residents to hospitals, she said.
“We had direct orders not to do that,” Hauptman said.
The documentary is largely about honouring the staff who worked through the extraordinarily difficult situation, she said.
“It brings out some of the key challenges that our sector faces,” she said.
Hauptman and the current CEO of Langley Lodge, Aly Devji, have both seen early cuts of the film already.
“It was quite emotional,” said Devji.
He said it was good to see the caregivers and their work highlighted.
“The jobs they do are probably the most difficult jobs there are,” he said.
Highlighting heroism and the systemic issues in seniors care was a big part of the documentary for director Hurford.
“One of the things that comes out of the interviews is that we have ageism in our society,” he said.
The rights of the elderly were put aside during much of the pandemic.
The issues that caused so many problems during the pandemic had been raised many times before, he said.
“Why did we ignore the staffing crisis for a decade?” he said.
He hopes the documentary is part of pushing for permanent, long-term fixes to the system of seniors care in Canada.
If the system goes back to the way it was before, “that would be a tragedy,” Hurford said.
Crisis in Care will be on Apple and Google streaming services starting on Oct. 30.
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