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London widow voices support for proposed changes to long-term care bill of rights

A New Democrat bill dubbed the Till Death Do Us Part Act would amend the provincial long-term care bill of rights to keep couples together even if their health needs are different.
A New Democrat bill dubbed the Till Death Do Us Part Act would amend the provincial long-term care bill of rights to keep couples together even if their health needs are different. Kathleen Finlay / Getting Images

A recently proposed private member’s bill aims to ensure couples stay together in long-term care, regardless of their varying health-care needs.

For Christine Turgeon, hearing such a change could be coming to the province makes her hopeful, but unfortunately, it is happening too late for her family.

Turgeon lost her husband in May. At the time, he was in a care facility two hours from her home.

“Nobody should be separated, especially at times like that,” she said.

READ MORE: Ontario bill to keep couples together in long-term care passes key stage

Because the facility was over two hours away, she was only able to visit once a week and was not able to be there when he passed away.

“The nurses told me that prior to him passing, he had just given up emotionally,” Turgeon said.

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“He had the best of care, I have nothing but good words for that home they put him in, but the separation between us, I believe, played a big role in how quickly he escalated down.”

Although it’s too late for Turgeon, she is happy to see changes that would ensure no other couple goes through what she and her husband experienced.

The New Democrat bill — dubbed the Till Death Do Us Part Act — would amend the provincial long-term care bill of rights to keep couples together even if their health needs are different.

The private member’s bill passed second reading in December with unanimous support from all parties and is now waiting to come before the legislative committee for review.

NDP MPP for London-Fanshawe Teresa Armstrong said it’s encouraging to see the support from the Ford government.

READ MORE: Long-term care waiting lists will grow despite additional new beds — Ontario’s fiscal watchdog

“There have been cases for 60-plus years where partners go into care, and they are in different facilities and they can’t be reunified, and that’s just not right,” Armstrong said.

In a report released in October, the province’s fiscal watchdog said the number of long-term care spaces in Ontario had virtually stagnated between 2011 and 2018.

Wait lists for long-term care spaces are projected to peak at 40,200 people in 2021, dropping to about 37,000 after the 15,000 new beds the Progressive Conservatives promised to add come in 2023 to 2024.

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A spokeswoman for Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said the government will further examine the bill in the coming months.

“We understand how important this issue is for many families across Ontario, and we remain committed to examining how we can keep loved ones together in long-term care,” Rebecca Bozzato said in a statement.

— With files from Canadian Press