Lost in a city he helped build

A three-month wait — and counting — to get a long-term care bed for a Red Deer man with severe dementia is unacceptable, says his family.

Rene and Roy McGregor walk the halls of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre Tuesday: the former city mayor and councillor’s family say it’s “unconscionable‚“ he’s been waiting months for a long-term care bed.

Rene and Roy McGregor walk the halls of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre Tuesday: the former city mayor and councillor’s family say it’s “unconscionable‚“ he’s been waiting months for a long-term care bed.

A three-month wait — and counting — to get a long-term care bed for a Red Deer man with severe dementia is unacceptable, says his family.

Roy McGregor, 86, has been living in Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s psychiatric ward since October when his wife Rene, 79, needed emergency hip surgery. Along with her heart problems, she could no longer care for him.

His son Robert McGregor said so far no space has been found in any long-term care facility capable of looking after people like his father.

“All I’ve been told is sometimes it can take a long time. I asked what’s a long time? Up to a year,” McGregor said he was told. “If that’s the gold standard (Alberta Health Services) is holding themselves to, then I would suggest that’s flawed. To me, a year is unconscionable.”

Sissel Bray, executive director for seniors health for Central Alberta with Alberta Health Services, said in Red Deer, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake there are 135 secure spaces for people with dementia or others in need of that kind of special care.

“Right now we don’t have any empty spaces. It depends on the turnover in long-term care,” Bray said.

And sometimes people must stay temporarily in hospitals while they wait, she said.

“Our process is we move people out of acute care as fast as we can.”

As of Monday, 39 people from across the province were waiting for either a secure or non-secure long-term bed in Red Deer.

Robert McGregor said the possibility of moving his father to a facility in Hanna to start with has been mentioned, but nothing has become available.

Other local facilities with wards for people with dementia include Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer, Innisfail Hospital Centre and the Centennial Centre in Ponoka, he said.

Rene McGregor said her husband has become depressed on the hospital’s secure ward where there are no other patients his age.

Prior to being admitted to hospital, he was a regular crib player at the Red Deer Legion despite his dementia.

“He’s honestly lost interest in life. There’s nothing to do but walk that hall,” she said about her husband who was a Red Deer’s mayor from 1974 to 1977, and a city councillor before that.

He began his career in Red Deer as city treasurer after his family moved from Fort Macleod in 1956.

In addition to being involved with the local Legion throughout the years, he served as Kinsmen and Rotary president.

“He was on so many boards. He just loved volunteering,” said his wife of almost 60 years.

McGregor was diagnosed with dementia about 10 years ago.

After he arrived at the hospital, he was also diagnosed with lung cancer and his family is waiting to find out about treatment options.

His son said he never realized how frustrating the health-care system is for seniors until now. With the aging population, more people will find out and be shocked.

He said hospital staff have been “compassionate, caring, dedicated, professional.”

But it’s not enough.

“These folks on the front line of health care are trying to do a really tough job with limited resources. I’m a tradesman. I work with tools all day long. It would be like me trying to go out and do a customer with half the tools I need. You just can’t do it.”

Long-term care patients waiting in acute care, like McGregor who have been assessed and approved for care by AHS, are charged $44.50 per day.

Once they get into public long-term care, a private room is $54.25 per day and semi-private is $47.

His son said the cost isn’t bad considering a private care facility can charge a lot more.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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