Where are the beds for seniors?
On July 12 on the front page of the Advocate (Long-term care policy worries caregiver) the concern I had for long-term care for my aunt was exposed. I wish to let your readers know what has happened in this situation.
To recap: my main concern at that time was that long-term patients in the hospital, upon release, must go to a facility available within 100 km of Red Deer. On June 18, the Advocate had an article (AHS reverses cuts to home, palliative and continuing care) quoting Health Minister Fred Horne saying that this 100-km policy was being “withdrawn immediately.” However, my 96-year-old aunt had on July 10 to sign that she would go within 100 km. The placement officer at the hospital informed me that the policy had not been rescinded.
Several weeks later, I had a conversation with MLA Cal Dallas, who informed me that “Red Deer had lots of ‘capacity’ or the government wouldn’t have made this promise.” He was referring to beds coming on stream for different levels of assisted living (residents have fewer needs than long-term/continuing care residents). He forwarded my concerns to the Ministry of Seniors. It took many weeks to finally get various people to listen to my concerns and pass them to someone else probably higher up. It finally got to the Patient’s Concern Consultant for Patient Relations, Central Zone. The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly, but before the above-mentioned consultant could go higher up, my aunt was assigned to Lacombe. She refused and since then the issue has disappeared with no consequences.
The reason I have pursued this so vigorously is because my dear aunt has lived in Red Deer nearly 70 years. All of her friends and support people are here. However, I am her only relative and her main caregiver/advocate.
So if she goes out of Red Deer, how do I help her? Who will visit her/be her advocate? But if she was in Red Deer, then the options are so much better for her and me. (My husband needs constant care.) So much for Fred Horne saying that we want our seniors to be close to their loved ones.
My aunt has been taking up an active care bed for almost four months that she doesn’t need. She sits alone, eats alone, in a darkened room, day in and day out. Big taxpayers’ bucks for inappropriate care.
I recently heard that in her unit alone there are 10 patients awaiting placement in the community. How many other patients are there at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre — and other hospitals in the Central Zone, or all of Alberta in the same situation? Where is this “capacity”?
So readers, I have a few messages:
l The facilities for the care of our seniors are clearly inadequate despite the crisis warning going back 10-plus years. Ten years ago good studies indicated that the Central Zone would need at least 300 new continuing care/long-term care beds by now. Where are they?
• Where can one get information? From my experience it is shrouded in secrecy. It certainly is not readily available to the public. I’ve been told, “Well, we used to know how many persons were in hospital awaiting placement, but since the ‘reorganization’ (nine years ago?) we can’t get the info.” Trying to get information, e.g. at the hospital, is shrouded in “Don’t quote me” or, worse, “If I say any thing I’ll lose my job.” Don’t ask where your loved one is on the “list” to get out of the hospital. The list, if it exists, appears to be a very, very guarded document.
• If you have an aging loved one in the hospital, or one who may be soon needing long-term/continuing care, don’t assume that their needs are or will be met, close to their loved ones, through Alberta Health Services facilities. (If the senior can afford $6,000 per month, or more, in a private facility, perhaps his/her needs will be met.)
• Question carefully what you read about what Alberta Health Services has to say.