Let’s Talk About It: The case of the missing seniors’ beds

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There has been much media attention paid lately to the lack of public nursing beds for frail seniors.

Consider the historical plight of children who were unable to live with their parents. Many were moved from foster home to foster home before finding a permanent placement. It took many years for changes to be made to the system—permanency planning was put into place to help prevent several moves for children.

If an elderly person needs a significant amount of care because they are no longer able to live at home, it is unlikely that they will find a bed quickly in the public system. They could experience several moves, taking months or even longer than a year till they are settled in a permanent bed. While the system recognized years ago that several moves for foster children was damaging, changes must be made now to allow our frail elderly to move into a permanent bed when it is required.

A senior who is hospitalized and unable to return home will receive the medical attention they require in the hospital, often suffering some cognitive deterioration. Their next move might be to an evaluation/orientation bed, which can last a few months. Here the person’s situation is evaluated to plan for their long-term placement. Often, after a stay in the hospital, the individual has deteriorated and is being evaluated during a state of confusion and disorientation. Next is a move to a transition bed, also called a “waiting bed.”

What do we expect of these frail and confused seniors? How many cognitively healthy people would be able to ride this train without being scarred? Not every fragile senior survives this process. It is all about money and budgets, but the government needs to find a way to protect our elderly and not have them suffer abusive treatment during their last years of life.

Some families, fortunate to have the financial means, will find a long-term bed in a private CHSLD to prevent several moves for their loved ones. There has to be a better way for everyone, and not just those with the big bucks.

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