Long-Term and Hospice Care

Many of us imagine we can rely on the medical system when we or our loved ones lose their independence and approach end-of-life. This is a common misunderstanding. Although receiving care when we need it is ideal, there simply aren’t enough long-term care facilities or hospice units in our area for this to be likely to happen.

The Campbell River Hospital has no rooms designated for palliative care. The Vancouver Island Health Association (Island Health) maintains four publicly subsidized beds in the Hospice Cottage in Yucalta Lodge, a long-term care facility in Campbell River. Evergreen Seniors Home, another long-term care facility in Campbell River, works with the Campbell River Hospice Society to provide two affordable, privately funded suites, with room for both the dying and their families. Availability of both is determined by the greatest need, and for the private beds, includes the ability to pay.

In addition to many other services, the Campbell River Hospice Society provides compassionate support to palliative individuals and their families as they face end-of-life, whether at home, in hospital, or in a care facility. However, there are no hospice units in their building on Evergreen Road.

Due to the many advancements in medical care, our lives are often extended, usually lengthening the period of time when we are in declining or compromised health. Island Health, the Cortes Island Seniors Society, and New Horizons For Seniors offer services and programs with the goal of keeping people in their homes as long as possible. This would usually supplement the care already being given by a person’s family, friends, and neighbours. To navigate the various available programs and services it is advisable to have an advocate, as the person with compromised health may have trouble articulating or pressing for their own needs. Private care is also an option to further extend the time individuals can live safely in their own homes.

As a person’s health declines, Island Health will make assessments and, if the individual can no longer manage at home with the help provided, they would be provided further assistance and be put on a waitlist for long-term care. However, it can take over six months before a subsidized bed, which costs 80% of the client’s income, becomes available. Privately funded beds may require a shorter wait, and cost over $7,000 per month. Although anyone can apply for a subsidized bed, priority is given to the person with the highest need. It is possible to begin in a private bed, and then apply for a subsidized one.

A person who falls, or whose health deteriorates to the point that it is unsafe for them to be at home, can be taken to the hospital. Island Health assigns them a case worker, and if they regain their health and adequate support can be arranged, they return home. Otherwise, they become eligible for long-term care. This could mean a six month or longer wait in the hospital. Having an advocate to liaison with the assigned case worker ensures the person is continually monitored and cared for.

Another long-term care facility is being proposed for Campbell River, as well as more hospice care, but it is doubtful these will meet the growing demand. We simply cannot rely on the medical system to provide the care we and our loved ones would like, through the process of declining health and end-of-life. Let us support the programs and initiatives that keep people healthy and safe and at home, and engaged with their communities, as long as possible.

Written by Margaret Verschuur