Tammy Phinney has been caring for her 75-year-old husband, Vernon, since he had a stroke more than 10 years ago.
Tending to his every need, she said she was determined to keep him from having to move into a nursing home. But, she said the work was taking a toll on her own health.
“It is hard to have to do everything by yourself,” said Phinney.
Phinney said she even developed a hernia from lifting the love of her life from his chair, all the while completely unaware that help was even available to allow she and her husband to live in their home longer – until this past year.
“With all of this help now it’s easier to do that,” said Phinney.
The couple is now part of a New Brunswick program called Nursing Homes Without Walls, a first of its kind in the country.
Terissa Salmon is a Nursing Homes Without Walls Seniors Navigator in Port Elgin.
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“We help seniors who are still living in their own home to access all of the services that they are going to need to remain there safely for as long as they wish,” she said.
The concept was developed by the Research Centre on Aging at the Universite de Moncton.
Salmon said seniors receive help with things like filling out in-home care applications, access funding to modify their homes, find transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping and social outings.
Through the program, Phinney was able to access funding through the Department of Social Development to have a chair lift installed for her husband, who requires a wheelchair to get around.
“Trying to get him down here by myself was very dangerous,” said Phinney.
She said that she would never have been able to afford the lift on her own, especially given the current cost of living.
“I see seniors now that are taking out a second mortgage on their home because they are using their equity to help pay for their heat, to pay for their gas and groceries and stuff like that. It’s a crisis, it really is,” said Salmon.
“It was to help both of us. To help him stay at home and to help me help him stay at home,” said Phinney.
The program is expanding into more locations across the province over the next two years.
But Phinney says the Nursing Homes Without Walls model should be available to help more seniors stay in their homes right across the country.