Terminally ill man lost in a loophole: daughter

Josh Pennell
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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.

Health history

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.

Constant care

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.

Organizations: Blue Cross, Marine Atlantic, Department of Health and Community

Geographic location: Eastern Health, Torbay, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Barbara
    May 16, 2013 - 05:53

    Best of luck with whatever you decide to do Ms Dinham. The photo tells it all- your love for each other. The respect you have for him. Your devotion and undivided attention. You are sacrificing for him because he is your world. You will have no regrets when he is gone. I believe the younger generation thinks it will always be well. Scary thought to face old age and sickness with no one to care. You are so blessed to have him and he is doubly blessed to have YOU.

  • Terry
    May 15, 2013 - 18:17

    I have been there and done that. The elderly person I cared for had some money. I quit my job to be their live at home caregiver. They also worked, voted, paid taxes all their life. They were the embodiment of indepence.Never asked the government for anything. I HAD to do that and I was made to feel like a leper because I "lobbied" on behalf of people whose offence was never having asked the system for anything, let alone abuse it. The attitude amongst the health bureaucracy was if you don't have previous experience in kicking up a stink over every little thing regarding your attitude of " ENTITLEMENT" then it's too late to do so now that you're elderly and sick. However I saw freeloaders get the golden gloves treatment because they "knew their rights"! Lawyers have told me horror stories of "family " fighting over money and demanding their "fair share" of the same upon said ill family members death: will or no will. During all the times I spent with my two deceased family members at the doctors office and hospital, not one doctor,nurse,social worker or clinical clerk told me any "horor stories of so called family members fighing over their fair share of the responsiblity. No envy or litigation there! Upon reading the story and reflecting on my own experience it seems the Dinhams are enduring what the new Newfoundland health care system has to offer. The multi-layered bureaucracy of the health care corporations that has administrators and managers managing administrators and managers administrating administrators and managers. They in turn are more concerned with protecting their own fiefdom within that hierarchy than they are about actual heakth care. Factor in press conferences, news releases, class action suits and commissions of inquiry , overpaid bureaucracy and you don't grasp much of a sense of priority as to what the real priority is. CARE of the sick and vulnerable! Welcome to the politically correct, "caring", socialist, welfare state. It works for the people who spend and waste the money; not for those who worked to pay those taxes into a bureaucratic top heavy health care system. This story should be a red flag for those who have bought into the myth that if you work and pay taxes now the system will be there for you when you're sick and elderly. One of those myths is that we don't pay enough taxes or that the health care system in Newfoundland was under funded fthroughout its existence. A lose analogy would be to read Animal Farm by George Orwell. " All pigs are created equal but some pigs are a little equaler". sign me Peter Principle P.S Due to the inpolitically correct and right of centre nature of this missive I will be surprised if this letter is posted.

  • Paula
    May 15, 2013 - 16:35

    Hello This is very ironic . My father worked with your father and was dx with rectal cancer in 2006, he passed away a few months later. Before he died he was trying to locate Mr. Dinham. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in connecting with him. I would love to talk with you, my father was denied many health care options due to his pension, and was denied other treatment that were being offered to other patients.I always wonder why he was trying to connect with your Dad.

  • BI
    May 15, 2013 - 14:56

    And why does the government try to get us to save money - so they won't pay us supplement; and why are some of us trying to save RRSPs and Pensions. We too, the baby boomers, will have too much money and no home to go into. Nobody to look after us and maybe a couple of dollars above the limit. I am near retirement - I will need a drug card but I have to make sure I don't have too much money when I retire otherwise I won't get any medication. There is something terribly wrong with this health care system. We have people who work 14 weeks a year and then go on EI. THey won't have any savings to retire on, and will get in a home and a drug card. I who have never used EI and worked all my years, won't get as much because I tried to save a little - how fair is this situation. Go after them Judy - it just isn't fair on you or your Dad, especially when you know he is ready to go into a home. Eastern Health - wake up and find out what is going on - you have a lot of baby boomers coming, and we won't take this sitting down either.!!

  • Daphne
    May 15, 2013 - 14:36

    The heath care system is soooo wrong. Not meaning to sound cruel but bring your father to the hospital and don't take him back home. They will have to find somewhere for him to go. I assure you that.

  • Nightingale No More
    May 15, 2013 - 13:44

    Been there, done that. The only girl in a family of boys, it fell to me to take care of my ailing 85 year old father. Basically I put my life on hold for the ten years I took care of him in my own home. Even after he went into a government run home, there was seldom a day I wasn't there doing something for him - often basic things like feeding him when he was unable to do so himself. Why not let the staff feed him, you ask? Because so often they would only give him a few spoonfuls and then report he wasn't hungry. He would have died of starvation. I watched others do just that. It's a common misconception that residents in seniors homes receive 24/7 care. Sometimes it's a legitimate case of workload, but more often it is simply that they are too lazy. Ask the older staff and administrators. Off the record they will confide that the new, young attendants and nursing staff don't have a fraction of the selfless commitment to service evident in our older generation. People are living longer, but not necessarily more healthy. Absent constant care, many elderly would not make it. And to be fair, the lack of attention in many seniors homes is not so much different from the indifference within their own families. Staff tell you that for every resident with a doting family member like myself, there are three or four more who seldom see their parents. This is a dramatic change from the old days when the elderly lived with their children. There seems to be no happy balance. Ms. Dinham is to be congratulated for the care of her father, but I am confused about the rules for government institutions. I understood - I guess incorrectly - that seniors in need of care could not be denied entry into one of the government run homes. If their income falls short of the standard monthly charge, which I understood was about $2,700, government makes up the difference. How can a person with no income be given a room free of charge, while a person able to pay two-thirds the fee is denied? This is a have-province with evidence of oil wealth everywhere, it seems, except in our seniors homes. As Ghandi said, "a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members".

  • Rose
    May 15, 2013 - 12:37

    Judy, my heart breaks for you. If it's any comfort to you you're not alone. In my line of work I see it all the time & thank God your dad has you to watch out for him. Yes people, those of you that are alone with no family to watch out for you, God help you, there's an emergency room in your future, where you may languish for days before a home is found for you. There will be NOONE to listen to you & your life WILL be taken out of your control. THIS IS HAPPENING NOW! & it's going to get worst in the future.

    May 15, 2013 - 12:34

    I would NEVER in a million years put ANY family member into a home again! You will regret it.. Im not going to mention any names of places or people.. but heres my story.. Our Family had decided to put a relative into a home she had memory problems. She hated it there! Once theyre in there theyre deemed UNFIT to come home ever again & they give the residences 100.00 a month out of their money. She was never sick.. she had diabetes & bad memory.. all of a sudden the home gets shut down because of gastrointenstinal sickness, we dont see her for 2 weeks because we are not allowed in.. gets a phone call sayin shes dying.. and before we make it to her bedside shes dead. (all within an hour) NOW.. she didnt get sick over night.. what in the heck went on in them two weeks??.. Im telling you.. my opinion... NEVER do this to a family member.

  • June
    May 15, 2013 - 12:16

    This story makes me wonder why I strive to go to work eveyday. Seems to me if Mr. Dinham had spent his entire life on welfare, being a drain on the system, he would be taken care of in his golden years and his daughter would be able to live a "normal' life today. What a kick in the teeth. Now, which way to the welfare office?

  • Chris
    May 15, 2013 - 12:10

    We had a similiar situation with both parents a number of years ago. My sister took care of both parents until it was time to find a home for both of them. My father had a healthy pension, so we had to fight and call daily until my father was placed in a home. It took a long time, but in the end both my parents ended up at Chancellor Park. The government took all my fathers pension and took care of all their costs. He was allowed to have money deducted from his monthly paycheck for a prepaid funeral for both mom and dad, and I believe $125 into a cash acount for incidentals. While they has both since passed. the time they spent at the home together was well worth it. My advice is to fight and call them everyday and insist on having your father placed in a suitable home. While his pension went to pay for the room, it was the best decision we ever made. But you will have to fight and argue with many people in order to get what you want. There are rooms available in the private care homes that offer a great quality of life. Insist that you get into one of them. DO NOT STOP! DO NOT BE IMTIMIDATED!

  • Appalled
    May 15, 2013 - 12:00

    I am appalled by the statement: "....individuals whose income exceeds $1,950 per month do not qualify for a subsidy in a personal care home." That figure is far too LOW. I can see myself in this man's position in a few years and it frightens me. Is there no advocacy organization in this province for issues such as this one?

  • Brian
    May 15, 2013 - 11:52

    You wonder what's wrong with the system, this is not rocket science, Eastern Health should jump at having to pay less than what they are paying now, they are always talking abount saving money, cutting costs. Come on Eastern Health open your eyes and small minded brain!!!!!

  • Applejacks
    May 15, 2013 - 11:46

    If Mr. Dinham were to pay for the nursing home, He would still have $255 to go towards medication, leaving Ms. Dinham to pay the remaining amount of $245. Isn't that cheaper than the $368 she is currently paying for the homecare worker?