A Kitchener, Ont. man says he wasn't allowed to visit his mother in her nursing home after he gave her a hug at a prior visit.
Brian Sorensen's mom, Diane, moved into Forest Heights Long Term Care Home three years ago after she suffered a stroke. Sorensen said she also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
When Diane, 63, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year, Sorensen said he thought she was going to die.
"I really thought that was the end," he said. "I was mentally preparing for that for about a month. It was really rough."
Sorensen was able to visit his mom again after an outbreak at Forest Heights was declared over late last month.
Health officials declared an outbreak at Forest Heights on April 1. By the time it ended, 178 residents and 73 staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In total, 51 people died. The outbreak ended on June 30, according to Region of Waterloo Public Health.
Sorensen first visited his mom at the home on July 7. Although the home had sent out visitation regulations saying people needed to stay six feet apart, he said he was overwhelmed with emotion and hugged her.
"It was almost a third of a year without seeing her," Sorensen said. "I did give her a hug, I don't think I should be banished from seeing her for being a little bit emotionally compromised."
Sorensen said he wasn't given any direction from staff that day that hugs weren't allowed. He went back for a second visit on July 18, when Sorensen said he hugged his mother again. That time, he said staff asked him to maintain physical distancing.
Sorensen also said he's had multiple negative COVID-19 tests since visitations began.
When he arrived to see his mother on Thursday, Sorensen said he was told he wasn't allowed into the home because of the hugs.
"You shouldn't be punished for showing affection," he said.
Instead of finding out at the home, Sorensen said he would have liked some notice ahead of time.
"They had over a week to communicate with me as an adult and, you know, maybe stress the fact that I can't see her," he said. "You can't just cut her off, that messes with her mental awareness."
In an emailed statement to CTV News Kitchener, Revera spokesperson Larry Roberts said he understands it is a "challenging time as residents and families adjust to the new rules around visits in long-term care homes."
Roberts said there was a "miscommunication" between the home and Sorensen.
"It was the intention of the management team to reinforce the physical distancing requirements with him in advance of the scheduled visit [Thursday], but that connection was not made," Roberts' statement said in part.
"Staff at the home then cancelled the visit in error. We have apologized for this miscommunication and we are in the process of arranging future visits that maintain safety protocols."
Sorensen confirmed he received a written apology, but said he feels the situation could have been handled better.
While he knew the hug was against the rules, Sorensen said he doesn't regret it.
"I love her like crazy and I thought she was going to die," he said. "I stand by it."
Roberts said the facility is following rules laid out by provincial and regional health officials and said all visitors and residents are informed of the rules during their visits.
"We look forward to a time when we can allow our residents more frequent, longer and closer interactions with their family members," Roberts said. "We know how much they need and want to see -- and hug -- their loved ones."
With reporting from CTV News Kitchener's Stephanie Villella