Iris Meehan is giving up guardianship to her mentally challenged and ill brother Terry Kalynka

Michener closure leaves siblings in a tough spot

Michener Centre’s closure next year has forced a Red Deer woman to give up her brother’s guardianship.

Michener Centre’s closure next year has forced a Red Deer woman to give up her brother’s guardianship.

Iris Meehan said the care facility was the last best chance to get help for Terry Kalynka’s mental challenges and illness.

“I’m turning over my guardianship to the Alberta Public Guardian,” she said.

“It’s all I can do. I’m tired of fighting the system.”

The province will close Michener Centre next year, saying institutional settings contradict today’s best practices for mentally challenged care. The 125 residents will be moved into group homes or seniors care facilities.

Meehan said Kalynka, 62, is happy at Ponoka’s Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, where he’s been more than a year.

“They’ve become his family. He’s treated like gold but you can’t live in a hospital.”

Institutionalized at 20 after his father’s death, Kalynka spent years in Saskatchewan disabled care as well as at Prince Albert’s Regional Mental Health Centre. Since moving to Alberta, his family’s tried group homes and personal care.

“I worked in group homes for seven years and I didn’t find them particularly good for other people and certainly not for my brother,” explained Meehan. “After that, he was with the most wonderful proprietors, but he burned them out.”

Describing Kalynka as a “simple minded” schizophrenic and hypochondriac, his sister said he has a recurring pattern of violence.

“He has a gentle nature but he’s kind of cowardly.

“When he’s violent, he’s sneaky,” she said, describing his past attacks on health providers and other group home residents.

“He’s on anti-psychotics. He’s dangerous to himself and others.”

Meehan toured Michener Centre and thought “it was a great facility and would be an excellent place for my brother.

“Michener is sheltered where they can be themselves. If they shut down Michener, they’re doing a great disservice.”

She contacted Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski who, despite being “a very warm and caring person,” couldn’t help her.

Bill Lough, president of the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Services, said Meehan’s problems are common among his group’s members fighting the centre’s closure.

“She’s not alone. At every public meeting, we’ve always had someone there terrified that they’re simply being put back into a system that’s already failed them.

“Michener has such excellent staff in dealing with complex needs, aggressive behaviour residents,” he said, adding other care situations can’t always “guarantee quality of life and security of individual.”

Dennis Nault, the special services director for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Central Region, said aggressive clients in both group homes and the centre undergo applied behavioural analyses by behavioural consultants to determine the aggression’s triggers and develop a plan to avoid or eliminate them.

“Everyone is treated individually. Some need to have such things as a quiet room and there are people who may have to be physically restricted.

Every plan is reviewed by a psychologist so we provide a high degree of ethics.”

Kalynka’s care troubles are worsened by Meehan’s approaching retirement move to B.C.

“I’m 63 and I’m kind of tired of the Alberta Advantage. I want peace and harmony and I won’t get that here as exemplified by the treatment of the disabled.

“I fought hard for him, but the system’s let me down.”

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