In this series of articles, we will provide details into the care of seniors in British Columbia, Canada and what are the options available.
When Jane Smith’s mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer 18 months ago, the family decided to keep her in the private retirement home where she’d been living with dementia for several years.
The expensive plan required the help of private, round-the-clock care aides, but it honoured her mother’s wish to spend her final days at home, not in a hospital palliative care unit.
“This home was her comfort zone … It’s like a cruise ship on land,” said Smith “But if the (residents) have come to a point where they can’t take care of themselves — they need help with their daily hygiene or getting medication — that is where (care aides) come into play.”
The combined cost for the non-government-subsidized retirement home and the aides totalled $25,000 a month, which was paid for out of her mother’s savings. “It’s extraordinary,” Smith said of the bills, which would be out of reach for many British Columbians.
Her mother died early Thursday at the age of 89. Her care plan had worked well until Monday, when her pain suddenly intensified, her grieving daughter said.
Nurses from a palliative community team had been visiting her mother regularly, but when Smith phoned them to ask that her mother’s pain medication be increased, she was told they checked with a doctor and could not help because her mother was not technically a palliative patient. They suggested her mother be taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but she was in too much pain to be moved.
It was upsetting and confusing for the distraught family.
It’s a system that will become even more over-burdened and difficult to access as the province’s population aged 65 and older is projected to skyrocket from 916,500 this year to more than 1.6 million by 2040, when one out of every four people in B.C. will be a senior.
Follow us next week on more about BC senior care….
Originally published in The Vancouver Sun
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