The number of seniors on the waiting list for long-term care facilities in Terrace has dropped significantly in recent years, meaning that elderly people who actually need to be in a care home will secure a bed there faster, say regional health officials.
The changes are thanks to a Northern Health initiative to make the most of available beds in Terrace by caring for some seniors in their homes, a development that comes at a time when many are worrying about the strain the aging population will put on the health care system.
“Because of the initiative, now in Terrace there are two people on the waiting list for residential care homes compared to 13 people that were on the waiting list three years ago,” said Penny Anguish of Northern Health.
In the northwest, there were more than 50 seniors on the waiting list for care homes before, a number that has now dropped to only 22 last week according to Anguish.
As a result, the wait times for long-term care beds have also decreased to only three to four months on average, a big improvement on the year-long period that patients had to wait just a few years ago.
The reduction in the size of the wait list can be attributed to a Northern Health initiative called Care in the Right Place that focuses on making sure that people who do not need to stay in the hospital or in care facilities have the resources to be able to recover at home.
“What we heard from seniors is they want to live independently as long as possible,” said Anguish.
“So we are working to help people stay at home.”
Anguish explained that the initiative began by ensuring that seniors in the hospital were discharged in a timely way if their families or homecare nurses could support their recovery.
This made sure that only elderly patients who have no other option but long-term care remain in hospital beds on the wait list for a residential care home.
These changes have reduced the number of seniors overall waiting for a bed in a care home.
“We find that we get better results [this way],” explained Anguish.
“People lose their functional abilities the longer that they stay in acute [care at the hospital] so we want to move towards discharge as fast as possible.”
There are currently 86 long-term beds and nine short-term beds available at Northern Health’s Terraceview Lodge senior care facility.
There are no plans to make more beds available for elderly people in need of the extra help, said Anguish, because current resources in the health care system need to be optimized first.
“There are lots of things that can be done to improve the quality of care patients are receiving before we open up more beds,” she said.
However, last month, nine seniors were still waiting in hospital beds across the northwest region for a place in a long-term care facility to open up and an aging population is going to put more pressures on the health care system in the near future.
This is something that Northern Health still has to be mindful of, noted Anguish.
Anguish said that Northern Health is working on coordinating care between family doctors, the hospital, and care homes, and other organizations need to work on providing assisted living and accessible housing facilities in order to care for the increasing number of seniors.
“Everyone is certainly concerned about the demographic shift that is going to take place and that is why we are doing the work we’ve been doing under the Care in the Right Place initiative,” Anguish explained.
The outdated Mills Memorial Hospital is also scheduled to undergo massive upgrades over the coming years, a process that will happen over seven years and they are currently about three years into.