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General · 19th March 2013
Maureen McDowell
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me – when I'm 64?” (or 84? or 94? ) “Don't count on it – just stay healthy and set up your own housing and care services on Quadra!” summarizes the advice that Quadra Circle seniors received from 2 recent lunch speakers on Housing and Care for seniors.

Despite the projection that by 2030 over 25% of BC's population will be seniors, local residential care facilities are now so overloaded with demand that beds are filled on a crisis basis. VIHA Home Support (services to assist seniors to stay in ther homes) can't find enough employees to meet current demands. VIHA expects to be short-staffed in all areas of medical care for at least 20 years. According to the 2007 Housing Survey our island's population is already 25% seniors; VIHA Home Support serves about 20 clients on Quadra presently.

Fragile seniors who become hospitalized but can't live at home any more due to unsafe conditions get priority for residential beds over those barely managing at home but who aren't yet in crisis. Mary Cook, Co-ordinator of Home Support Services, acknowledges that Home Support services have been cut so severely in the last 10 years that her staff are no longer allowed to provide help with house-keeping, meal preparation, grocer-shopping or companionship. Her home support workers can do up to 4 visits per day for those who need help with dressing, grooming and taking their meds but only until 6pm.. The Home Support worker can prepare breakfast, heat up lunch (eg open a can of soup) or dinner and provide a bath once or twice a week. Also there is no home support in the evening on Quadra though there is in Campbell River. The client must manage alone the rest of the time or get help from family or friends.

Home Support service is provided by VIHA at no cost if the person's income is under $17,000 ($38,000 for a couple). Otherwise, the person pays a percentage of their income per day for the service. Some families have had to discontinue service because they cannot afford this.

Admission to the Assisted Living and Complex Care residences in Campbell River, whether private or publicly funded, are all based on VIHA's assessment and referral. 'Being on a waiting list' is no longer possible, because of the urgent demand for beds in order to free up hospital beds. The person must already receive 40 hours per week of Home Support and at least 2 personal services. Assisted Living and Complex Care beds subsidized by VIHA cost 70% and 80%, respectively, of the person's after-tax income (a minimum of $958 per month for a single person receiving only $1200 OAS and GIS monthly, plus a surcharge for hydro, and cable, phone, personal items and outings.) For many seniors, not much is left. Some have to apply for an 'Involuntary Separation', so that the spouse who doesn't need care can have some of the income from the spouse-in-care to live on. Those with higher incomes pay up to $6000-$8000 per month for Complex Care facilities (24-hr. residential care for those who are no longer able to direct their own care).

Terry Fulton, who manages the Willow Point Supportive Living residences has a 200% waiting list. Supportive Living provides low-rent apartments for seniors who are able to live independently. His non-profit society financed the apartments using money donated by business people as a down payment, pre-selling the patio homes with a covenant in place specifying that they could be bought back by the society at a price-fixed by a formula. As a result they made a profit of $20,000 on each property; this $120,000 was used for down payment to build apartments (40 suites) and daycare building. The latter is leased by VIHA for a Senior Day Care Centre. They now have $1 million in assets in the patio homes which currently rent at $750/month plus utilities.

Coastal Community Credit Union gave them a good mortgage deal where though the rate was a little higher than competitors, it was less expensive because they did not demand the purchase of CMHC insurance. They got 3.8% fixed for 5 yrs. at time when general rates were 6.8%. Trial and error, a dedicated Board, plus astute business and tenant management practices have made the project financially sound in recent years. The Society and residents set the rules of admission and tenant guidelines. The residents can get income-based rent assistance from the BC SAFER program; rent is $600 ($425 with the rent subsidy), including heat and hot water though not hydro. VIHA now has a 'cluster care' arrangement there, whereby one Home Support worker assists several of the residents throughout the day. The residents have a weekly dinner together, otherwise they provide their own meals. Terry's aim is to one day finance a Complex Care facility on the property, with its own nursing staff and food services, so that the residents can move there when needed and still be in familiar surroundings with friends.

Terry's advice to us about developing more seniors housing on Quadra was “Don't involve VIHA or you will have no say about admissions and discharging or moving your residents, plus constantly changing VIHA rules. He suggests we do a questionnaire with people 5, 10, 20 years away from needing the care, asking which of 4 or 5 options the majority want/need.

Funding possibilities he listed were: Businesses including those in CRiver. Charitable Foundations. A benefactor, a partner who would get involved and enjoy helping. Property development money is sometimes available. CMHC gives a grant of $10,000 for up-front costs and may lend another $10,000 interest free. CMHC gives lots of advice. Different housing models such as Abbeyfield, Equity Co-ops, co-op housing, shared homes, Life-Leasing will suit various people.

Mary Cook of Home Support suggested we look at the ideal seniors services we might want to create on Quadra - ways to help seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible (including grocery-shopping, house-cleaning, yard and home maintenance), to have healthy meals, to exercise and socialize regularly (possibly at a Seniors Centre), to have transport to appointments and activities, and to provide respite for families caring for their elders. In other words, we could make Quadra an Age-friendly Community.

What's next: Our survey of Quadra seniors over 70 years old is continuing, with phone follow-up. We have had kind offers of Q Cove-area land with and without buildings for sale if used for seniors housing and services. “One size does not fit all” - so a variety of housing plus support services might best meet the range of needs of Quadra seniors. We welcome your ideas and help with next steps: Mary 285-3084, Maureen 285-2221.

Meal Delivery ProjectFriday, March 22 at noon the Quadra Circle Seniors Lunch features meal samples by Gowlland Harbour Resort's chef, so seniors can get a taste of a possible meals-on-wheels-type community service which Quadra Circle plans to offer to interested seniors. Location: 1281 West Road at Quadra Bible Church, downstairs. Exercises at 11am with Ann Lawrence.