Seniors critic Conway confabs at Creekside

South Cariboo seniors want better care options, including home support

NDP seniors and long-term care critic Katrine Conway visited 100 Mile House recently and met with people concerned about seniors care at Creekside Seniors Activity Centre.

Conway says she heard seniors are worried about wait-lists for Fischer Place, while more than a dozen beds remain unopened in its new wing.

“I’ve heard numbers from 12 to 22 area seniors waiting for placement.”

Conway was seniors’ critic from 2005-2007 before moving into a number of other critic’s roles, and then recently returned to this position and resumed travelling around British Columbia, listening to individuals and seniors advocate groups.

“I think the saddest thing is the issues I was hearing about in 2005/06, when I was first elected, are for the most part still issues today, eight years later. So, that’s a real concern to me.”

The issues she heard about in 100 Mile House echo what she was recently told in Kamloops and Prince George, Conway says, adding key aspects surround a lack of home support.

“I rarely have a senior say to me, ‘I just can’t wait to move into that long-term care facility’. They say, ‘I want to live in my home as long as possible’, and I find that more in rural B.C.

“In communities like 100 Mile, you have very independent seniors and people who have lived in their home a long time, and they want to stay in their home.

Quite often with a little bit of help, they can stay in their home, Conway notes, but she has seen “significant cuts” to home-support programs in the last eight years.

Once on a waiting list for long-term care, B.C.’s older citizens may be sent out of their communities under the Ministry of Health’s “first available bed” policy.

Conway adds she “worries” the B.C. Liberal government’s “Better at Home” home-support program requires local volunteers to run it, with a paid co-ordinator only.

It’s crucial that seniors keep their dignity while they continue to live at home, she says, adding one example always “hits home” with her, although it is not uncommon.

“I had a fellow say to me, ‘I need some help around the house’.”

His wife had passed away, and he needed a little help with housework and nutritious meals. But when home support staff assessed him, Conway explains, the only thing they would help him with is bathing.

“He says, ‘I can shower by myself. I don’t need some stranger showering me’.”

The NDP platform has yet to be revealed to her, but Conway says it will be “fully costed out” to show how its plans would be implemented.

However, she notes seniors who stay at home without support sometimes end up in acute care at overcrowded hospitals under “incredibly expensive” costs of $1,200-$1,500 a day passed on to taxpayers.

While acute care staff is very skilled, it usually isn’t trained in geriatric care, so provides “such inappropriate” care for the particular needs of seniors, Conway adds.

She says the over-use of anti-psychotic drugs is one of her main concerns in that area.

“I think [B.C] can do things better in the health-care sector.”

Conway says talking to health-care staff also reveals many cost-saving and “amazing” ideas that never get past the hospital doors.