Conroy returns to the seniors beat

With the latest Liberal cabinet shuffle, NDP MLA Katrine Conroy will once again be keeping a watchful eye on seniors care in the province, an expertise she has developed in this region.

Newly appointed critic says placement for elderly couples continues to be an area of concern

With the latest Liberal cabinet shuffle, NDP MLA Katrine Conroy will once again be keeping a watchful eye on seniors care in the province, an expertise she has developed in this region.

“I feel for the families who don’t have the ability to advocate for their loved ones,” she said Wednesday. “I just want to make sure people don’t get left behind or treated in a way they shouldn’t be.”

The Kootenay West MLA has been appointed critic for seniors health and long-term care, a position she held in the past.

She is proud to fight for the elderly, who she says “built this province” and will spend the next while reconnecting with seniors groups to ensure she has a grasp of the challenges they face.

Locally, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Seniors is still active and dedicated to bringing seniors’ concerns to the forefront.

“I personally think that there is a lot of confusion when facing the decision to place a loved one in long-term care,” said society member Carol Albo.

Placement of elderly couples continues to be a larger challenge, as a husband and wife could need completely different levels of care.

Many residents are familiar with the story of Albo’s in-laws – 91-year-old Fanny Albo was transferred in February 2006 from the Trail

hospital to a facility in Grand Forks, where she died two days later, apart from her husband and family. A broken-hearted Alfie Albo, who was also a patient at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital when his wife of 69 years was moved, died a week later.

The hospital has since revised its policy by ensuring family members approve patient transfers. It then provides temporary placements for seniors without removing them from a preferred residential-care placement list.

Conroy is pleased that a couple facing similar circumstances were recently placed in the same facility, but not without pressure.

“I want to help families in our region make sure that their parents are not split up,” she said.

From a formula perspective, Trail sits above average in the number of available beds for seniors. The city has 95 beds for 1,000 people over the age of 65, which is above the B.C. average of 93 beds. Locally there are 50 beds at Poplar Ridge, 76 at Columbia View Lodge and 45 at Rose Wood Village. 

On average, there were 15 seniors living temporarily on the third floor of the Trail hospital last year while awaiting placement, but the hospital is proud to report that there is only one person currently on a waitlist.

“A great deal of work has gone into processes in the Kootenay Boundary in the last year or so to make sure people are getting access to appropriate levels of care,” said Karen Bleomink, regional director for residential services.

“In addition to seeing fewer people awaiting residential care in an acute setting, the Kootenay Boundary average wait to a first-available residential bed is currently 44 days, down more than 85 per cent from last year.”

Regardless, Conroy maintains there is still a bed shortage and is pleased to back in a position that she knows is “near and dear to her constituents.”