Coronavirus: B.C. man says mother at risk from gaps in support for certain seniors’ homes

Neil Floyd and his mother Doreen. Submitted

A B.C. man says he fears for his mothers safety, after learning the seniors’ home she lives in does not qualify for the same kind of support as provincially-licensed seniors facilities.

“We want to ensure my mother receives the same support, that the same rules and policies apply to where my mother lives,” said Neil Floyd.

Floyd’s 87-year-old mother Doreen lives in the Concord Retirement Residence in White Rock.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Supporting seniors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic

Doreen suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and Floyd says she relies on support from the staff at Concord.

Concord is a privately-funded and operated facility, considered an “independent living” operator.

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Unlike assisted living and long-term care facilities, independent living facilities are not licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living or Hospital Acts. They are instead regulated by an industry association called the BC Seniors Living Association.

Independent living facilities provide housekeeping, laundry and meals, but unlike assisted living, do not provide personal care services such as bathing, grooming or dressing. Private or publicly subsidized care aids are often hired to fill those gaps.

In the context of COVID-19, independent living facilities also do not qualify for provincial funding for infection prevention and control or for personal protective equipment (PPE).

They are also not covered by the provincial health order banning staff from working in more than one seniors’ facility.

“We realize the province is doing the best they can to control this virus,” said Floyd.

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“But I think there’s a line drawn in the sand to the point where they would basically turn their back or not provide service or assistance to any folks that are living in independent care facilities.”

READ MORE: List of seniors’ homes and health-care facilities at centre of B.C.’s coronavirus outbreak

The BC Seniors Living Association estimates that more than 12,000 seniors live in private independent living facilities that make up its membership. A 2019 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated as many as 32,000 B.C. seniors live in some form of independent living.

On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the situation in independent living facilities is different than in long-term care homes.

“They’re where people are exactly that — living independently,” she said.

“They tend to be healthier, they tend to be able to self-isolate.”

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Henry said the province does have a program to connect seniors in independent living facilities with public health. She added that the province was working with operators to put in similar protective measures as in an apartment building.

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“But it’s not the same situation as the people who are requiring care in a long-term care home,” she said.

“It’s a very challenging situation, there’s not an easy answer to any of this.”

It was an answer Floyd wasn’t satisfied with, saying his mother lived in an apartment prior to her independent living home, and that there is a clear difference.

“There’s a staff member on site 24 hours a day in case there is a medical emergency. You don’t get that in an apartment,” he said.

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“These people depend on the staff daily for help and support, and they need to know that the staff there are safe and that they do not share or shed this virus to the people in this home.”

Floyd said the result of the division between independent living and long-term care facilities has meant seniors’ residences or even staff are required to provide their own PPE.

And he said he’s concerned that the staff, who are usually trained as support workers, not medical staff, would not be up to the task should there be an outbreak in a private facility.

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“The sad part about this is I’ve told my mother because she’s asked me, ‘well, what would happen if someone in this pace gets sick?'” Floyd said.

“I looked at her and said mom, they would do exactly the same thing that would happen at any facility, they would come in here and there would be doctors and there would be support teams and there would be people running around with masks and equipment and stuff.

“Well, now I’m not so sure.”

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