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Pilot program aimed to allow more N.B. seniors to live at home hopes to expand

Click to play video 'Pilot program helping N.B. seniors to live at home hopes to expand' Pilot program helping N.B. seniors to live at home hopes to expand
A pilot program aimed to keep seniors in their homes longer is looking to expand across the province. 'Nursing Homes Without Walls' was started a year ago, and those behind the program say evidence shows the approach is working. Shelley Steeves has the story – Sep 30, 2020

A pilot program aimed to help New Brunswick seniors stay in their homes longer would like to expand across the province.

Nursing Homes Without Walls is a pilot project that provides support for 170 seniors in Southeast New Brunswick and those living along the Acadian Peninsula to allow them to stay in their homes rather than move to a nursing home.

“Any problems that they have they can come to us and we help them sort it out,” said Pam Van Egmond, senior navigator for the Cape Tormentine region.

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Van Egmond said extra staff hired at local nursing homes liaise with seniors to help them access medical support and enroll in community programs, as well as social programs for which the application processes can be overwhelming for some seniors.

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“We’ve had furnaces replaced through social development, we have had support workers brought in when people come home from hospitals,” she said.

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Suzanne Depuis-Blanchard, a professor of nursing at the Universite de Moncton, spearheaded the pilot project using $1.8 million in federal and provincial funding from the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project.

Nursing Homes Without Walls has been running for a year and Dupuis-Blanchard said it is already a success.

“Preliminary results are showing that it has certainly made a huge difference,” she said as more seniors are reporting they have been able to stay living at home with the added supports.

Depuis-Blanchard said she would like to see the provincial and federal governments provide funding to expand the program across the province.

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“Providing seniors a safe way of saying in their homes for as long as they want it is a little investment to be able to do that,” she said.

She says the province also needs to ramp up services for seniors to support those choosing to stay in their homes.

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“Doing groceries, the painting, the cleaning, just the house maintenance — we really take that for granted when we are able to do it.” She said if the province were to provide more supports to assist seniors with such tasks, it would greatly contribute to their mental and physical health.

“At one point some seniors will just say ‘this is getting way too complicated, I can no longer stay in my home if I cannot have some resources and some help,'” she said.

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Sonny McCarron is 72 years old and lives at his home in Cape Tormentine, N.B.

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He said seniors also need added financial support from the province to be able to afford to stay in their homes longer.

“The old age security hasn’t gone up hardly at all. Groceries have gone up gas has gone up — all of the things that seniors use to stay in their homes have gone up and there has basically been no increase (in payments),” he said.

Nursing Homes Without Walls is slated to run until the fall of 2021 said Dupuis-Blanchard hopes it will be renewed long-term.

The New Brunswick Depart of Social Develop’s Communication Officer, Abigail McCarthy, said the province is waiting for the pilot project to be complete before decided how to proceed.

“Once complete, it will provide government with research data on how best to move forward and whether the project could be scaled up on a regional or national level.”