A panel of disability advocates spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people on Thursday night, outlining their concerns over the lack of options related to dedicated housing for people with physical disabilities.
They’re calling on the government to step up and provide funding that would ensure that the living situations of people with physical disabilities are not just meeting the minimum standards.
Instead, these advocates are asking to be given a high quality of everyday life.
“We do need 24-hour care but we also want to live a normal life,” explained Joanne Larade, 47, who has been in long-term care for six years.
“When my mother talks to her friends back home, they all think I’m living with people my own age,” said Larade.
“They are shocked that I’m living in a nursing home.”
Although she is complimentary of the facility that she’s called home for more than half a decade, Larade says being surrounded by elderly people living with dementia and having no one her age — other than staff members — are some of the difficulties she faces daily.
“I want change, I want my own place to live,” she said.
Vicky Levack, 28, also took part in the panel, explaining what her life has been like for the past seven years that she’s lived in a care facility.
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“I get the physical care that I need but I don’t get any of the emotional or recreational support,” she explained.
“It’s basically a warehouse for the dying, and the only way I’ve found to survive that is to spend as little time there as possible.”
WATCH: Disabled long-term care residents calling on province for dedicated facilities
All of the advocates agree that small housing where people with similar situations could live together is the ideal scenario.
They’re now calling on the government to provide the funding that would make it a reality.
While Premier Stephen McNeil indicated that work is currently underway with that very goal in mind, those who are currently living in care homes say they would like to see change happen sooner rather than later.
“There’s the ongoing transformation that’s happening with all of our assisted living facilities,” said McNeil. “Our goal really is to move people to independent living.”
“We know there’s a certain level of care that would be required, but what we’d hope is that we put them in an environment where they’re more with their own peers, as opposed to more experienced citizens in our province.”
NDP MLA Susan Leblanc attended the panel discussion and says she believes people with disabilities should be provided with options when the time comes to move into long-term care and that government should play a major role in facilitating that.
“Community living is the No. 1 priority for people with disabilities and their supporters, and so it seems to me that the government should just add that into the road map budget,” she said.
The provincial budget will be tabled on March 26. At three weeks out, it’s likely the numbers have been finalized.
Still, those advocating for better living conditions for people with disabilities don’t consider it too late to have a discussion with provincial leaders that could help bring the change they’re looking for down the line.
“I want a meeting with Stephen McNeil,” said Larade. “He needs to hear what we have to say.”
“They need to realize we’re here,” she added.