Here in Edmonton, AB we are spending tax dollars on expensive hospital and nursing home beds to as private Home Care agencies focus on minimizing services, and paying low wages and no mileage to their staff.
Our family’s story.
Before Christmas 2013 Dad, 92, fell getting out of the shower. Mom, 72, tried to help him and fell as well. Both injured their backs. Dad spent a week in hospital. Mom had to take the last of her RRSP funds for treatment. (She had done this the year before, to cover back treatment cost. Counted as added income, their rent subsidy was reduced.)
Mom was fearful of bringing Dad home. She knew she couldn’t care for him. The hospital social worker was adamant. Home Care would begin that same day.
In reality, a case manager came to interview them. The following Monday their case went to review. The review committee approved 2 showers a week for each, house cleaning once a week for a limited time, and someone to help Dad with crushing his pills. They would provide a pole for the shower.
When supports finally began, they were sporadic. Mom continued to provide care for Dad, her back getting worse, her stress mounting, and their relationship struggling. The shower pole never arrived. They were told the right one couldn’t be found.
In February Dad and Mom were sent to the Glenrose Geriatric in-patient program for 3 weeks.(Cost covered by AHS) They learned strategies to build strength, they worked hard. Dad learned he needed to thicken his liquids to prevent choking. When they returned home, his frustration increased, Mom’s stress rose, and he refused to attend to his dietary needs. He went back to regular food and drink. He choked regularly. Mom became more and more worried. Home care supports were reduced to 1 shower a week for Dad, if they showed up. The rest were pulled. Mom was on her own, in pain herself, and unable to convince Dad to eat properly.
In April Dad was ambulanced to hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia due to aspirating food. It was clear to all of us that without increased, reliable home care, Mom could not care for Dad any longer. Three weeks later a nursing home bed came open and Dad was sent there this week to free up the hospital bed while he waits for an opening in the facility of his choice (an expected 6 month wait.)
Dad moved in Thursday, May 8th. Mom stayed the day, but went home in extreme back pain. The next morning she received a phone call. Dad’s roommate had attacked him the night before. They nearly came to blows. The roommate remained escalated, Dad left the room (in his bare feet and pyjamas, without his walker) to escape. There was only one other bed open in the facility, so Dad was moved to the locked dementia unit. (His mental capacity is normal.)
Mom broke down. She spent the morning sobbing out of fear for her husband, and guilt for not being able to care for him at home. She is also aware that she can no longer stay in their apartment and will have to move as soon as possible. We don’t know what income she will be left with, but she will be destitute once the $1500-$1700 is taken for Dad’s monthly nursing home rent.
Our understanding is that someone was ready to move into the dementia unit bed that Dad is now occupying. That family has been told they have to wait longer. The open bed with the aggressive roommate will have to stay empty until they can find a place for that gentleman. His family must deal with their distress as well. The staff are caught in a hopeless situation as they don’t have the resources to keep residents safe. We were thankful they managed to find an alternative for Dad, given the lack of choices.
In the end, Dad could still be at home. Mom could, with adequate home care, have her husband with her. She wouldn’t be sitting by his bed day after day, aggravating the injury to her back. Their combined income would remain adequate for them to carry on. Our family wouldn’t be fearful and distressed, waiting for the next crisis.
All for want of an aggressive, reliable, well funded Home Care plan subject to measurable outcomes. I suggest Alberta Health needs to rethink their position, and soon. Variations of this story is being repeated in many families across the province. Please help us care for our seniors without such strain on our medical system.
Gene Zwozdesky: MLA Edmonton-Mill Creek
John Cabral: Alberta Senior’s Health Advocate
Fred Horne: Alberta Minister of Health
Dave Quest: Associate Minister of Seniors
Blog post: www.bobbijunior.com