Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Long Term Plans for Long Term Care

For the past few years the regional health authorities have been pursuing a policy of converting Long Term Care (LTC) facilities into Designated Assisted Living (DAL) facilities in our region. The latest measure is the announced closing of Extendicare's LTC facility on the northside of Lethbridge and the building of a new DAL facility on the southside, down by Superstore.

What are the implications of this policy?

1. LTC facilities have RNs, LPNs, a Director of Care, social workers, dieticians, physical/occupational therapists, rec therapists, and Personal Care Aides (PCAs) - DALs have PCAs and may have an LPN.

2. In LTC residents meds, incontinence products etc are covered. In DAL the resident or their family pay for them.

The rationale offered for the policy is that not all seniors need a nursing home level of care so the building of DAL facilities offers a medium step between a lodge and LTC. Fine. But once Extendicare closes its LTC the only nursing home left in the city will be Edith Cavell. I've spent a lot of time in nursing homes and I don't believe that there is any way that one 80 bed facility can handle the nursing care needs of seniors in our community. This isn't about creating more options. This is about slashing the cost of caring for seniors with significant nursing needs and transferring those costs onto the families. This is about warehousing seniors. I find it an appalling policy.

The more immediate issue is the decision to close Extendicare in July and farm 120 residents out to the existing DALs in the region until a new DAL facility is built. So people will not only lose their home they will be separated from the other residents and from the staff who are like their family. They may find themselves placed in Taber or the Pass and their families will not be able to visit as often. It may mean they will see much less of their husbands or wives. It is a horrible decision with grave implications. My letter to the editor appeared in the paper this morning. You can read it here.

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