Eastern Health policies criticised
Judy Dinham with her dad, Roy Dinham. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
A Torbay woman says the system is failing her father in his later years after he spent a lifetime paying into it without asking for anything in return.
Judy Dinham's father, Roy Dinham, has a list of medical conditions as long as it is varied, the worst of which includes lung cancer.
Roy lives with Judy in an en suite she had built onto her house, but with age and deteriorating health, he needs to be put into a home, she says.
The issue with getting him into a home is financial, although the scenario is more complicated than the family simply not having the money.
Seven years ago, Roy was diagnosed with rectal cancer. He went through both radiation and chemotherapy treatment and also had surgery.
After a five-year battle, he was about to be declared cancer-free when doctors discovered the disease had spread to his lungs.
Despite another struggle, Roy has persisted. Last October, Judy was camping in her trailer and her father, who requires constant care, was with her. He became very ill and had to be taken to hospital in St. John's.
Roy was diagnosed with pneumonia and was given a very bleak outlook by the doctor.
"He said, 'Roy, you're dying. You have less than two weeks. You will not get out of this hospital,'" says Judy.
That was Oct. 21 of last year. Ten days later, Roy went home, presumably to die in familiar surroundings.
But Roy pushed through. Judy says she told him every day not to think it was going to be his last, but that he was going to live.
When they left the hospital, they were given a one-time offer of 27 hours of home-care that the hospital would provide. Judy says they did so thinking Roy was down to his last days.
They also managed to get a home-care worker through Eastern Health for 39.5 hours a week. Eastern Health pays $2,800 a month for that service, which they still benefit from, and Judy pays the outstanding $368 a month. That provided some help at the time, but that first period home from the hospital was tough, Judy says.
"I didn't sleep for four months," she recalls.
Roy is in a position now where he needs 24-hour care, Judy says. In addition to the cancer, the 74-year-old has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and ankylosing spondylitis - a fusing of the vertebrae that has given Roy's spine a question mark-like shape. There are other ailments and conditions, too.
Judy has been off work on stress leave for awhile, but says she needs and wants to go back to work. She says she lives in the en suite with her father because he needs so much attention and doesn't want to be alone. She even sleeps there, essentially not living in her own house.
What they both want is for Roy to go into a home.
"He needs someone there. I can't be there. I have to go to work," she says. "Oh my God. I'm losing my mind. I'm cracked up."
In addition to the stress on Judy, she says Roy realizes he's been relying solely on family to care for him for long enough, and he also wants to be around people his own age for companionship.
"He has none of that. I can't give him that," she says. "He wants to go in a home. He's ready. He wants to meet people his own age."
The problem with putting Roy into a home is a financial one. Right now, the home-care worker still comes for 39 1/2 hours a week.
Roy has Blue Cross health insurance, which covers 70 per cent of his meds and the oxygen he also needs. Eastern Health takes care of the other 30 per cent.
Despite dishing out for home-care, if Roy goes into a home, Eastern Health no longer pays for anything.
The Dinhams would be on the hook for the monthly bill of the home and all the costs of the meds and oxygen.
"Everything is paid for now. If he moved ... absolutely nothing," says Judy.
When contacted, Eastern Health officials said they cannot speak specifically to the issues of an individual case.
They did confirm that individuals looking to reside in a personal care home or nursing home who request a subsidy will have a financial assessment completed to determine if they are eligible to receive ONE toward the cost of care and accommodation.
The subsidy may cover the full amount or a portion of the cost, depending on an individual's financial situation.
Eastern Health also said individuals whose income exceeds $1,950 per month do not qualify for a subsidy in a personal care home.
Roy doesn't qualify. Despite some ailments that have haunted him most of his life and having five children to support, he never took advantage of any kind of social assistance, Judy says.
He worked with Marine Atlantic and collects a pension from it. His income is about $2,400 a month.
Judy says Roy is being penalized for having slightly too much money coming in. His room at the nursing home, with cable, would be $2,145 per month.
Judy says it's fine if that monthly bill takes essentially all her father's money. Anything extra he needs, the family will get for him.
The problem is the medication, which costs about $500 a month. And despite Eastern Health now paying $2,800 per month for home-care and 30 per cent of Roy's medical bills, if he goes into a home, Eastern Health won't pay anything.
When Judy told an Eastern Health worker their predicament, she wasn't very pleased with the reply.
"'He's better off where he's to.' That's exactly what she said to me."
Judy says she will pay for her father's way into a home. She has no choice, she says.
She says she wonders what happens to older people who don't have children to help them out, or people who can't come up with the money.
In her opinion, her father is being punished for working his whole life and collecting a pension.
"He's never, ever taken anything from the government and he's only asking for a little bit back and he can't get it."
Eastern Health wouldn't comment on why its policy is the way it is, other than to say its assessments are completed using standardized tools and criteria established by the Department of Health and Community Services.
Eastern Health also declined to comment on whether it comes across scenarios such as Roy Dinham's very often.