By Denise Bacon

One of the most difficult aspects of this pandemic is the inability for people to visit their parents in long-term care after the coronavirus gets in. This is true for Lucia Vacca. Her father, Giuseppe Florio, has been at the Tony Stacey Centre for 7 ½ years. Giuseppe is 97 years old. Lucia said he was healthy and was scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccination on January 7.

All residents at the Stacey Centre had been tested for COVID-19 in early January. Late in the evening on January 6, Lucia got a call from staff to advise her that her dad had tested positive so he would not get vaccinated the next day. At the time, about 17 residents had tested positive, Lucia recalls.

Giuseppe had a slight cough and no other symptoms. But since his contraction of the virus, he has stopped eating and drinking, which has been a huge challenge for his family. Homemade food was dropped off to TSC for him, but he still would not eat. He is expected to get the vaccine once he is off the medications and he regains his strength.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful the staff have been,” Lucia said. “A TSC caregiver, whether it’s a nurse or social worker, calls me every day with an update about my dad. He is getting the best care we could hope for.”

Lucia feels that the Stacey Centre has been totally transparent with the families of residents. She gets an email report twice a week about the status at TSC from Executive Director Melissa Elliott.

“Even with many of the staff getting the virus, the level of care has not declined for the residents,” Lucia said. In the second last week in January, Jodie, a recreation staff member, organized a Zoom visit with Giuseppe and his family. Lucia said that Jodie caringly encouraged him to participate but, unfortunately, Giuseppe wouldn’t even open his eyes on the call. This was very difficult for the family, especially since most of them haven’t seen him since the lockdown.

Lucia’s sister is designated as the “primary caregiver” for her father and she was allowed to visit until the outbreak shut the centre down to all visitors. Now, no one has seen Giuseppe since he got the virus. The family is heartsick knowing that their dad/granddad is missing his family and likely confused about what is going on.

Lucia and her husband, Carlo, mourn the deaths of the residents as they read the obituaries. They have become like family to many residents over the years. Some of the male residents would look forward to Carlo’s visits to talk about the latest sports news. Lucia would sit in a circle with residents, serving them water in cups, pretending it was champaign, and toasting to life.

Lucia’s advice to people whose family members are at the Tony Stacey Centre or other long-term care residences: Be present whenever you are able. Spend time with your loved one whenever you can. Just sitting beside your loved one, even without talking, is very comforting.