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Seniors care homes want province to address funding inequities

Senior care homes do not receive provincial subsidies available to other care options

Seniors in personal care homes deserve the same government financial support as residents of extended care and similar facilities, says the CEO of Red Deer’s Harmony Care Cottages.

Karen Cazemier met with Health Minister Jason Copping and Red Deer MLA and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and MLA Jason Stephan at the 15-bed care home on Thursday to address what she sees as inequities in how care is funded in the province.

Harmony Care offers a place to live for aging seniors, who may have common challenges such as dementia or incontinence but do not require medical care. Residents pay $6,700 a month, which comes entirely out of their own pockets.

However, residents in supportive living, extended care or long-term care facilities pay a maximum of $2,100 per month for rent and food and the province picks up the rest of the cost, which ranges from $5,400 to $5,900.

Cazemier said besides easing the financial burden on residents at Harmony Care, it makes good financial sense for the government to provide more support.

“Only one per cent of Albertans can afford to pay for private care,” said Cazemier. “In this facility, most of these people are at the highest level of care needs and if they weren’t here they would be in a facility requiring a high level of home care.”

Living at home is no longer an option for Harmony Care’s residents.

If seniors cannot go to Harmony some will end up in hospital, where care can cost $150,000 a month. About 25 per cent of Alberta’s hospital beds are occupied by seniors waiting to be moved to another care facility.

Moving seniors into long-term care and other similar facilities also costs more. Cazemier said if residents at Harmony Care were to pay $2,100 to $2,900 for their care, the remaining cost to the province would be about $4,600 or $3,800, less than the $5,400 to $5,900 required for many other facilities.

In some cases, Harmony Care residents must leave for other government-subsidized options because they can no longer afford to the entire bill for their care.

There are also savings in building new facilities. The financial support sought by Harmony Care provides enough to fund the cost of building additional facilities.

Large extended care facilities can cost $30 million, mostly funded by the province.

“We’re saying we’ll build you these homes and we don’t want your money.”

Care Cottages, which has homes in Red Deer and Edmonton, has already received approval to build a 15-room home in Gasoline Alley this year and another is planned in Edmonton.

The demand is there for homes like Harmony Care, she said. Alberta will need 1,000 more homes each for the next decade.

Cazemier was pleased that she got their opportunity to make her case but is unsure if it will lead to changes soon.

“I am hoping the UCP fulfills their promise. In 2019, they promised to fund personal care homes like this across the province and I am hoping they deliver.”

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