Move to home care rankles seniors advocates in Maple Ridge

Saving region money, but nursing services are not enough for some

Peter Church shows the living conditions of one senior tenant at Maple Ridge Towers who he feels should not be in home care.

Peter Church shows the living conditions of one senior tenant at Maple Ridge Towers who he feels should not be in home care.

A recent move by Fraser Health to treat increasing numbers of seniors in their homes has upset seniors advocates who believe the local health authority is discharging patients too quickly from hospitals to save money.

Peter Church is the building manager of Maple Ridge Towers, a non-profit housing facility that offers rent as low as $340 a month to low-income seniors and those 55 and over with a disability.

While the apartment building is meant to house seniors capable of living independently, Church says the building is quickly turning into a care home, something it was not designed to be.

“Some of the conditions they live in are terrible, they can’t take care of themselves,” he said. “They shouldn’t be here.”

Church believes the seniors with chronic conditions are being released home from hospital when they should be going to an assisted care facility instead.

Although many at the facility receive home care nursing services from Fraser Health, Church says the services they offer aren’t always adequate.

“Some of these people are living in filth,” he said. “They might have someone come around once a week, but that’s not enough.”

Church says while he is well within his rights to evict tenants who are unable or unwilling to care for themselves, it’s a route he’s hesitant to take.

“I’m not going to put a wounded, ill man on the streets to fend for himself,” he said. “But, at the same time, there’re 64 people here who I have to think about, who could be threatened by infection and disease.”

Carl Meadows, director of home health services for Fraser Health, says the move towards treating seniors with chronic conditions at home is meant to keep them healthier, longer.

“Fraser Health is really changing its paradigm [regarding seniors’ care],” said Meadows.

“Home is best. We know for seniors, acute care is not the place for them. They are susceptible to infection and weight loss.

“We want them out of the hospital as fast as they are able, but we want to make sure people have their needs met.”

Building residential care facilities to accommodate the rapidly aging population would cost too much, said Meadows, and in 20 years time, those buildings would likely be vacant.

“There’s no way possible for the health system to meet that demand,” said Meadows. “Home health is a much more cost-effective model.”

Currently there are close to 14,000 clients Fraser Health cares for through home health in the region. Meanwhile, Fraser Health’s 7,400 residential care beds are at 98 per cent capacity.

Once released from the hospital, a care plan is developed with a case manager and a nurse or health care provider is assigned to visit the home of a patient to manage medication, provide cleaning services, or cook meals.

However, one of the most difficult challenges home care nurses face are patients who refuse service, says Meadows.

“Some seniors are stubbornly independent and they don’t want somebody in their home,” he said. “That puts us in a difficult situation, because it is their choice, and they have a right to do that.”

Bob Kerfoot’s 97-year-old mother was recently released from hospital, and instead of being transferred to residential care, Fraser Health opted to provide her with home care. Kerfoot said his mother was offered four visits a day, to clean her and cook her meals. But because there is no one available through the night, should she have an issue, Kerfoot inevitably gets the call.

“I cannot look after her,” said Kerfoot. “I am 75 and have had surgery for a ruptured abdominal aorta, and have COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease].”

Kerfoot already has to look after his wife, who has just finished radiation for double lung cancer, and still has treatment to undergo.

“It is tearing me apart,” he said. “They are going to send her home to lay in bed and die.”

Heather Treleaven, head of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Seniors’ Network, said, while home health care has obvious advantages, there still needs to be more publicly-funded facilities that offer residential care for seniors.

“It’s the low-income seniors who are at risk, because they can’t afford private care,” she said. “We understand the financial pressures staff at Fraser Health are under, but there is a need there.”

PHOTOS:

Drops of blood surround a toilet in one of the suite’s at Maple Ridge Towers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pot with unknown contents left on a side table for weeks.