A new $70-million residential care facility for seniors with dementia will replace two facilities that are expected to close, but experts say there needs to be an increased focus on the quality of home care as well.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said Wednesday there needs to be sufficient support for those who wish to remain living in their own homes and also increased support for the caregivers.
“It’s not clear that all of those supports are being provided across the board in the province and even here in the south Island,” said Mackenzie. “There are some people in residential care who could, if there were better supports in the community, be cared for in the community.”
The new 320-bed residential facility, Summit at Quadra Village, will house seniors with dementia and who require complex care. It is expected to be completed in 2018.
Summit at Quadra Village will replace Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital, which consist of 580 beds in total and will close once Summit opens. The remaining 260 beds that will be lost once Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital close are located at the new Heights at Mount View Village.
There are currently no plans to add any more beds, said Cailey Hopkins, with the CRD. This makes the net total of beds the same in the end.
“We might [need new beds], we might not,” said Mackenzie. “What we need to do first is make sure that we have provided the supports in the community for people to live independently to the greatest possible extent that we can, and I don’t think we’re doing that yet.”
One of the main issues people say will force them out of their homes and into a residential care facility is the fear of not having proper home support, said Mackenzie.
“Your ability to live independently is, for the most part, determined by whether or not you have a spouse or a family member who can live with you,” she said of seniors with dementia. “But if you look at the family composition of seniors that are going to come up behind the current group of seniors, far fewer of them are married, and far fewer of them have children.”
If these seniors do have family members or community health workers that can take care of them day and night, it is important that those caretakers too are being supported in terms of getting breaks, said Mackenzie.
“It’s vitally important that the caregiver gets respite, and I don’t think we’re doing that piece very well at all,” said Mackenzie, adding that often times it is due to budget cuts that decisions will be made to eliminate or reduce respite care.
“It’s easy to say it’s not critical. But what they are doing is giving relief to the wife or the son or daughter who’s caring 24 hours for that person, and that wife or son or daughter needs to be able to get a break or they are going to break.”
Another element that could help keep seniors with dementia in their homes longer is more education for workers in the community that come into contact with people with dementia, said Barbara Lindsay, director of advocacy and public policy with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. This could include retail workers, bank tellers and community centre employees, for example.
“That will make a big difference in how people with dementia and their families live in the community, and it could really help to keep people at home longer,” said Lindsay, adding this would make the community a safer place for people with dementia by providing community members with strategies on dealing with and responding to them.
“Even if there is a bed for every single person who [has] this disease, what we really need to do is have communities that are ready for people with dementia.”