Lana Letts says her elderly mother’s health is deteriorating, in part, due to the stress of looming cutbacks at her assisted living care facility in Princeton, B.C.
“She is very troubled by it. Her health has declined since all of this started going down,” Letts said of her mother, Donna Donald.
“She is elderly, so the worry affects her mental and physical health.”
Donald is one of approximately 20 low-income seniors who have been informed by the society that owns and operates the facility that it can no longer afford to subsidize hospitality costs.
That means meals, housekeeping, laundry and security services are on the chopping block.
“Very, very upset about it. I think it is really sad that our elderly are just kind of being shoved aside,” Letts said.
The Princeton and District Community Services Society (PDCSS) said it’s facing a financial crunch for numerous reasons, including staff unionizing and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cost-cutting measures were implemented and modest fee increases imposed, but the non-profit’s board president, Allan McGowan, said the organization is still facing cost pressures.
“In spite of these efforts, it became evident that there was insufficient funding to cover the costs of providing the required level of housing, hospitality, and care services required to operate as a true assisted living facility,” McGowan said.
“PDCSS has been attempting to rectify the funding shortfalls for years.”
Many of the seniors can’t live independently and some residents are disabled.
Political promises were made on the campaign trail during B.C.’s general election in October about a boost in provincial funding following a community outcry.
“After the election, things lost a lot of momentum and the situation was, we need to have clarification, we were drawing ourselves into a corner,” McGowan said.
A December 15 deadline is looming, and the society has yet to receive additional funding.
Families are renewing calls for the province to step in.
“I just wish that they could take care of the seniors like they said they were going to in the election and step up,” said Dale Sunderland, whose 96-year-old mother lives at the facility.
“We don’t have Meals on Wheels, so people that are alone, without family, what are they going to do to eat? It is just very troubling,” added Letts.
Newly minted Boundary-Similkameen NDP MLA Roly Russell said the looming service reductions at the care home are the most urgent and critical issues facing the riding currently.
“It’s concerning to me. It’s not the time of year we want to have a challenge like this. We made a commitment a couple of months ago to make sure there wouldn’t be a service disruption, so I’m trying hard and very sincerely hoping that we can get this resolved.”
Russell said the dust is settling since the election and he’s “cautiously optimistic” the funding shortfall will be rectified.
“The holdup is tied to the challenge in terms of delivery of some of those hospitality services. And it seems that the target right now is if we could find an opportunity to support meals for the near-term, that would make a world of difference, so that is where my energy is being dedicated,” Russell said.
The society said BC Housing supports PDCSS with regard to the shelter portion and Interior Health funds home support services, but neither agency is contractually obligated to fund hospitality services.
Interior Health said home support services will continue, even if Vermilion Court is de-registered as an assisted living facility. The health authority cannot speak to financial challenges or funding requests to other agencies, it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, BC Housing said it will fund meals to residents via an Interior Health home meal delivery program until March 2021.
“We are working with our partners to ensure that residents continue to receive the services they need beyond that time frame so that they can continue to live safely and comfortably in their homes,” the agency said in a statement.