Seniors on hold for housing

Wait for Saint Luke’s independent living units takes years

Barb Sweet
Published on April 26, 2014
Alma and Selby Pack have been living in a cottage adjacent to Saint Luke’s home in St. John’s since 2001. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Alma and Selby Pack once turned down a senior’s cottage at Saint Luke’s because they weren’t ready to leave their home, but the chart-busting snowfall of 2000-01 changed all that.

The couple had their names on the list for years, because it takes years to get one of the coveted spots.

The Packs, now in their 80s, knew about the cottages from a relative living there and, like other seniors, they put their application in as soon as they were eligible.

They’d been on the list for years when 650 centimetres of snow buried St. John’s in 2000-01 and Alma said that’s it, that Selby should not be manoeuvring the snowblower anymore. They were approved and, in late fall 2001, they sold their home and moved in.

The cottages adjacent the Saint Luke’s nursing home, the nearby Bishop Meaden Manor and townhouses, are part of the affordable independent living options offered by the not-for-profit Anglican Homes Inc. in the west end of St. John’s.

And the wait is long — there are 800 applicants, according to manager of tenant services Marlene Kavanagh.

The wait for accommodation is five to six years for the cottages, eight years for apartments at Bishop Meaden Manor and 10-12 years for the sought-after townhouses. Seniors must be 60 to apply.

Rents range from $445 for a cottage to roughly $700 for a townhouse, excluding utilities.

Some 120-130 seniors place their names on the wait list each year, up dramatically from 70-80 just a few years ago.

While the cottages provide independent living, seniors, if they wish, can get supportive care services from Saint Luke’s — laundry, meals, activities and transportation to help from nursing staff. And they don’t have a property to keep up.

“We don’t have to worry about shovelling or mowing grass,” Alma says, adding they did have a bit of ice buildup on their door for a couple of days this year to deal with, but maintenance gets to repair jobs as best they can, despite the weather.

Alma and Selby sift through matching storage footstools for the letter from Saint Luke’s adminstration they received this harsh winter — reminding tenants they could come over during the blackout. Their daughter came and got them instead, but they were grateful for the offer.

“It’s very nice they did that,” Selby says of the letter.

“Lots of people in the cottages here do not have family close by,” Alma adds.

A woman in another cottage row says she began thinking about the future after her husband died and put in an application for Bishop Meaden Manor where she lived for years before moving to the cottages.

She goes to Saint Luke’s for meals and was delighted when — faced with recovering from day surgery — found out they would be delivered.

“They help with the simplest little things, like changing light bulbs,” she says.

“It’s a good place for an old lady.”

Over at the townhouses by Bishop Meaden Manor, another woman, who also didn’t want her name used, says when she moved in nearly two decades ago, the wait was about three years long.

“There’s not near enough of these here for people,” she says.

Top concern

Housing tops the concern for those who seek information, whether it’s for assistance to find suitable accommodations or help to stay in their own homes, says Kelly Heisz, executive director of the Senior’s Resource Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“That may be another reason why (Anglican Homes) have a wait list. People may just really want to go there because Saint Luke’s provides excellent, excellent service in terms of continuum of care,” she says.

“This is a suite of services they provide. … It means once they get in the system they can move through the system with less transitions.

“Of course there is a demand for something like that.”

New building planned

Saint Luke’s is currently planning for a new independent living building.

Based on a memorandum of agreement, Saint Luke’s Homes grants preferential access to its cottage clients to the Saint Luke’s Nursing Home when a client requires Level III or IV nursing care.

The wait list for the nursing home is different. 

That’s part of the roster of Eastern Health’s long-term care facilities and is for seniors dependent on nurses and health-care professionals for most of their daily living needs.

There are about 100 people approved and waiting for access to a nursing home bed at various facilities in the eastern region,

an Eastern Health spokeswoman said.

Some 110 people already placed in long-term care facilities in the region are waiting for a transfer to their home of choice.

Demand remains high for placement in faith-based homes, including St. Patrick’s Mercy Home, Agnes Pratt Home, Saint Luke’s Home and the Salvation Army Glenbrook Lodge, the spokeswoman said. As of April 23, there were 47 people waiting to reside at Saint Luke’s Nursing Home.