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‘It’s heartbreaking to hear them’
Personal care home owners in the province are concerned seniors are being denied access to their facilities.
In a report issued last week, the Quality Living Alliance for Seniors wrote it is noticing “concerning changes to the assessment process for persons wishing to access our homes.”
Namely, the alliance says many seniors who would have qualified for admission to a personal care home before August 2018 are now being denied access.
The alliance says that’s happening due to a new application of guidelines stating that a senior must have a physical care need in order to be eligible for admission.
Susan Sullivan, the alliance’s executive director, told The Telegram a memo was sent to regional health authorities on Aug. 6, 2018, saying that social isolation, loneliness and psychological support are “significant concerns,” but on their own do not fall within the mandate of personal care homes to address.
“A person must have a personal care need or require assistance with instrumental activities,” reads a section of the memo, quoted in the alliance’s report.
Sullivan said instrumental activities include routines such as getting dressed, bathing, eating and taking medication.
"...the client who previously would have been accepted, if you follow stringently the guidelines, will no longer be accepted if their issues are only around social isolation.” — Susan Sullivan
“The minister will tell you that the regulations have not changed, and maybe they haven’t changed,” said Sullivan.
“But they have been told now that they have to be strictly enforced. So, you can see now that the client who previously would have been accepted, if you follow stringently the guidelines, will no longer be accepted if their issues are only around social isolation.”
The alliance’s report, titled Personal Care Home Industry Review, states the number of seniors deemed ineligible to enter a personal care home increased by approximately 400 per cent in the last six months of 2018.
The Telegram asked the Department of Health whether there has been a new application of the guidelines since August 2018 that has resulted in more seniors being denied access to personal care homes.
A department spokesperson, responding via email, stated there have been no changes to the criteria.
“Placement is based on a person’s physical and mental health needs. Both are included in the clinical assessment process that takes place prior to admission,” reads the email.
The spokesperson did not address whether more seniors were denied access, but did say that between August and December 2018, there were approximately 420 people placed in personal care homes, compared to 390 people during that same period in 2017.
Meanwhile, Sullivan said personal care home owners are hearing from seniors who have decided it’s time to move and are upset to learn they don’t qualify.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear them,” she said.
According to the association, loneliness, anxiety, stress and fear of falling or fear of living alone do not qualify seniors for the homes.
“There are direct correlations between one’s mental health and one’s physical health, so we’re very, very concerned that in ignoring mental health issues … now is something that’s regressive, when we’re saying to seniors those needs don’t count anymore.”
“There are direct correlations between one’s mental health and one’s physical health, so we’re very, very concerned that in ignoring mental health issues … now is something that’s regressive, when we’re saying to seniors those needs don’t count anymore.” — Susan Sullivan
The Department of Health spokesperson stated the department, in conjunction with the province’s four regional health authorities and the industry, “is continually working to make the eligibility program more responsive for those who rely on it.”
The alliance’s report makes three recommendations to the government. First, it recommends allowing assessors to approve seniors’ admission to personal care homes when they have concerns about loneliness, anxiety or stress.
Second, it recommends ensuring that a new level of care framework being developed by the government allows “adequate pathways” to personal care homes. The report states there are currently 14 levels of care identified, of which four permit a senior to gain access to a personal care home.
Lastly, the report calls for information sessions for personal care home owners and seniors’ groups about a new financial assessment process that came into effect on Feb. 1. The report states there is confusion in the industry about the new process, and seniors are confused about how the changes affect information they might need to provide when seeking a subsidized placement in a personal care home.