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LTC Crisis: Are staffing shortages putting our seniors at risk?

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Alberta Health promises a ‘building year’ to reform seniors care at home and in facilities

An extra $100 million to be added to home care over the next two budgets

Thursday’s budget included only a small increase to home care, but Health Minister Jason Copping says there’s much more to come.

Alberta Health intends to spend $856 million per year by 2024-25 on the health care aides and others who assist seniors to age in place. That’s up from $750 million budgeted for this year, and $731 million budgeted for last.

And that doesn’t yet include non-health care support — snow shovelling, house keeping and meals — which families say can be just as important. 

“There’s no additional funding for (non-medical support) in this budget,” Copping said in an interview. “We know that’s going to be one of the reasons why people come in to care homes — not because they actually need a higher level of medical care, per se, but they just can’t stay at home because of those practical issues in terms of snow clearing.

“We need to be able to deliver on that.”

Alberta has been funding a group of non-profit leaders to figure out how to co-ordinate non-medical care better. The chair of that committee, Karen McDonald, previously said she expects to see funding for improvements next year, in budget 2023-24.

Throughout CBC’s focus on family caregivers this month, many adult children and spouses pointed to this help as critical.

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Too far, too big, too dangerous — families pitch alternative to large care homes ahead of budget

10-bed care home just down the street is what many families want for loved ones

The long-term care home is so small, it could be mistaken for a large suburban house.

Ten beds, a kitchen and a shared living room — this is emerging as one key option for reforming Alberta’s pandemic-battered elder-care system.

Many families of dementia patients are now behind the concept, and the government’s own expert panel last May recommended 10 per cent of any new builds use this tiny concept. That would be a projected 1,600 new beds in small-scale facilities by 2030.

They’re hoping for a sign these beds are coming in the provincial budget Thursday. 

Lisa Poole has an image in her mind of one moment that captures exactly why these small homes are needed.

Her father, John Poole, was diagnosed with dementia in his early 70s, a decade before he died. Lisa walked into his long-term care room once to find him naked, cowering in the corner of the shower. Three unfamiliar care staff were trying to rush him through his morning routine. His face was just fear and confusion.

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