Cruel irony: bed shortage separates aging advocate from wife

Therese Beauchamp, 90, now has to ride in a car more than an hour to see her husband, Gerald, who has been put in a senior’s care facility far away from his wife of 62 years.

Therese Beauchamp, 90, now has to ride in a car more than an hour to see her husband, Gerald, who has been put in a senior’s care facility far away from his wife of 62 years.

Gerald Beauchamp, 86, is dealing with escalating dementia and mobility issues. He is currently in a senior care facility in Stettler, while Therese Beauchamp is in a senior’s independent living residence in Red Deer. Gerald Beauchamp has been in Stettler just shy of two weeks. It is the longest the couple have been away from each other, said daughter Louise White-Gibbs.

She said her mother has been to Stettler about four times, getting rides from siblings who still live in the Red Deer area.

Gerald Beauchamp has been on a waiting list to address his escalating dementia, which is still in the early stages. White-Gibbs said the facility he lives in now is largely populated by people in advanced stages of dementia, leaving her father with few people to talk to.

“It’s a long drive for a 90-year-old (her mother), even if she’s not driving, to go back and forth,” said White-Gibbs. “My dad, because of his dementia, wonders why his wife has left him basically.”

The residence where Gerald lives is even further away from his daughter, who lives about two hours away in Beaumont, and the rest of his children, who are three hours away in Calgary.

Gerald Beauchamp was president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging at one point in his life.

He submitted a petition in the 1980 to the Alberta government regarding the need for increased home care services. He was a Red Deer Regional Catholic school board trustee after being a vice-principal at Red Deer Catholic schools.

In 1988, he received a letter from then health minister Nancy Betkowski.

It outlines $6 million in funding for the home care program.

In the letter Betkowski, former Edmonton-Glenora MLA, outlines how emphasis was being placed on keeping people independent and in their own homes for as long as possible.

“My mom misses him immensely,” said White-Gibbs.

“He (dad) seemed very resigned and sad. But he did say ‘Maybe we could get a bed here so Mom could stay with me.’”

Ron Rose, the Central Alberta representative for the Alberta Council on Aging, said the lack of seniors beds is a serious problem for all Albertans.

“It’s certainly difficult for the family if they have to travel any distance to go visit grandma or grandpa,” said Rose.

“We don’t have enough beds.”

One of the council’s aims is to lobby the government for more beds.

“We would certainly like to see more beds and we have at least one nursing home sitting here in Red Deer empty that could still be used,” said Rose, referring to the Valley Park Manor in Riverside Meadows.

“It’s not brand new, but it is still serviceable.”

Earlier this year Alberta Health Services announced it was not going to refurbish the vacant Valley Park Manor, saying it would cost too much to retrofit it.

White-Gibbs just hopes her father will be moved to a care facility in Red Deer so his wife, and his family, can visit him regularly.

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