Crisis in long-term care

Shortage: Lack of beds extremely stressful for family.

Bounced around: Nancy Hadley with her son Dave at a care facility in Blind Bay

In just a matter of weeks, a 96-year-old woman has gone from being happily engaged in life to asking if there is a pill she could take to end her life.

In Shuswap Lake General Hospital awaiting an Interior Health decision tomorrow on whether she qualifies for long-term care, Nancy Hadley has become increasingly distraught as she has been moved from facility to facility over the past three months.

And so has her family.

“I have never been so scared or angry in my life,” says her son Dave, who wants other Salmon Arm residents to know the extent of a shortage of local long-term care beds.

It is an issue Interior Health acknowledges but points to a new 71-bed, long-term care facility currently under construction.

And, in the meantime IH staff do their best to find suitable accommodation, says Kirstine Hill, Community Integration Health Services administrator.

But that can be a nightmare for families, who suddenly need to find their loved one a new home with very little information, other than a list provided by IH of possible facilities from Blind Bay to Armstrong.

Until the end of August, Nancy resided at Piccadilly Terrace, enjoying her surroundings and the people she knew there, and regularly trekking up and down the hallways with her walker to remain as active as possible, says Dave.

But a series of angina attacks followed by mini strokes set her on a round of trips to the hospital, home to Piccadilly Terrace in time for her Sept. 5 birthday, back to hospital, to Bastion for recuperation, back to the hospital, to a Blind Bay facility and back to hospital, where she remains pending tomorrow’s IH decision.

Dave says when his mother’s need for an increased level of care became evident, he and his brother Earl spent hours on the phone trying to find what they consider to be suitable accommodation for her – a private room with a private bath and qualified personnel to provide the necessary medical care.

Although they were not happy about placing their mother out-of-town, they believed she would be well-cared-for.

Dave moved Nancy to Blind Bay on Nov. 23 only to receive word the next day that a suitable space would soon become available at Shuswap Lodge.

But four days later, Nancy suffered another stroke and was admitted to hospital in the morning. At 3 p.m. the same day, she was discharged.

When he went to get the car, Dave phoned the Blind Bay caregiver only to be advised she had received a “nasty phone call” from a community care nurse telling her Nancy needed a higher level of care than this facility could provide.

“In later conversation with the caregiver, we were told that Mom’s needs were misrepresented by the community care personnel initially, and we were certainly deceived by this same group as to the level of care that the woman in Blind Bay was prepared to provide,” said a frustrated Dave last Friday.

Dave’s frustration also arises from the fact he was originally told the level of care his mother needs could not be assessed in hospital.

Hill confirms IH prefers to make in-home assessments. She says patients in hospital are usually weaker and better assessments are made when they have recovered a bit and staff see how they cope in their own homes.

But Dave thinks the issue is more about space.

“There seems to be a lot of pressure being applied downward from upon high in the administrative ranks to clear non-acute care patients out of the hospital,” he says. “I can understand that non acute-care patients should not be taking up expensive acute-care beds, but where do these patients go for the level of care they require if it is not available in the community?”

While he has issues with IH administration, Dave emphasizes Shuswap Lake Hospital staff are amazing and his mother has become very attached to them.

He hopes her next move will provide longer-term stability.

“I had a brief conversation with her Friday and she was pretty emotional, she doesn’t want to make another move,” he says. “She might have a slight improvement, but it’s not going to be back to where she was.”

In the meantime, Hill suggests people with concerns about a loved one’s care can call IH’s Patient Care Quality Office at 1-877-442-2001 or email patient.concerns@interiorhealth.ca.

 

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