Together we can make a difference in senior’s care

  • Feb. 26, 2014 6:17 p.m.

In September 2010 the province closed the Red Deer Nursing Home and the

Valley Park Manor and transferred all the residents to the private for profit Extendicare Michener Hill. Finally this month, after sitting empty over three years and being maintained at a cost to the public of about $600,000, Alberta Health Services has decided they are not worth upgrading to meet current standards. It seems like a prolonged amount of time to make a decision. That money could have been better spent on actually upgrading those nursing homes or providing seniors in long-term care with adequate nursing care.

Perhaps I feel that way because I have had the opportunity to read that Parkland Institute’s recent report on Residential Elder Care in Alberta. It was based on statistics gathered from the Statistics Canada Residential Care Facilities Survey and the Alberta Health Facilities Review Committee. We are lucky to have this information but it will not be available in the future since both these sources of information on elder care have been terminated and this valuable information will not longer be available to the public. I wonder why governments would do that?

The study shows that in the years between 1999-2009 the number of beds in Alberta for long-term care, the highest level of need, has actually decreased by 20%. This means that it is harder access so the people that actually make it there require more care. In those 10 years the acuity of needs went from 36% to 58%.

Logically that means that more staff are required to take care of the same number of patients. The way we measure care is on a scale called ‘Total Direct Care Hours Per Patient Per Day’. These are calculated by the amount spent on direct patient care but it includes vacation time and sick time so the numbers are slightly high. However, it does give us a way to measure care. In this scale the minimal hours required nursing care per person is 4.50 hours per day. In the public sector, government owned and operated, the score is 4.10 hours. In the private not-for-profit sector the score is 3.41 hours. In the private for profit sector it is 2.94 hours. At that time elders had wait for 30 minutes to two hours for responses to their call bells, which means if they needed assistance the bathroom they have to wait if they could. Baths were given once a week but if staff is too short they could miss it. Staff caring for large numbers of people have to rush people through their meals and often can’t provide the assistance needed .

Our government has told us progress is being made in senior care. In a way this is true. From 1999-2009 there has been an increase of 187% in private for profit assisted living beds in Alberta.

Assisted living facilities can be very profitable. Between 1999-2007 the profit made in assisted living was 9.14%. But these places can be quite expensive for you and there are additional cost for any extra services needed. If you are ambulatory and in good health it can be a very nice. However, if your condition deteriorates and you need more help it will not be readily available. People sometimes have to wait in assisted living for long-term care beds. You would be put on a long waiting list with people in the hospital and at home all needing long-term care beds. According to Alberta Health Service on March 31, 2012 in Alberta there were 1,469 people waiting for long-term care. And 467 of these people were in acute care hospital beds waiting.

Do we need the Red Deer Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor for senior care? I would say yes. Too bad we just used $600,000 to keep them empty. Recently I visited with a staff member from the Red Deer Nursing Home who helped care for my mother. She now works at Extendicare Michener Hill. I asked how the care given to our seniors compared and she said, “We did not know how lucky we were, both for residents and for staff.”

Imagine how frustrating it is to work with staffing numbers that allowed less than the standard of minimal care. Private long-term care between 1999-2007 had a profit of 1.29%. In 2009 publicly run facilities spent $71 more per resident per day than did for profit facilities. I guess that answers where the profit is coming from.

Look at the seniors in your life. Look in the mirror. Is this acceptable to you? For more detailed information go to the Parkland Institute web site and read the report. If you want to do something there are many ways you can help change it. Check the web sites at Friends of Medicare or Public Interest Alberta. Together we can make a difference.

Brenda Corney

Red Deer – Friends of Medicare

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