by Michelle Miller

Cecile Loiselle recently had her independence stolen from her. Now she sits in a hospital bed waiting. She isn’t waiting for treatment, surgery or dialysis. She’s waiting for a bed in a nursing home.

Cecile has lived in southern Saskatchewan her whole life. She was born in 1923, the youngest of eight in a French Catholic family. Two of her five brothers were priests and both of her sisters, nuns. Cecile was set to follow in her sisters’ footsteps until she met Robert Loiselle.

They married after just six weeks of dating in 1946 and, shortly after, moved to Regina for Robert’s job. The couple had four children by 1962. Suddenly in September 1967, Robert died of a heart attack. Cecile and the children were left alone, but that didn’t stop her from living a full life.  

She taught music lessons to support her family, raised her children and volunteered for local organizations by sewing and cooking in her spare time. She lived independently for the rest of her years in Regina, until just three years ago.

Loiselle had hip surgery and her mobility has never been the same. Following surgery, Loiselle moved into the Renaissance, a retirement community centre with extensive socialization programs and three meals cooked for her daily. She became increasingly less active and soon required more care than the Renaissance could offer. She moved into a personal care facility in Regina in 2009. Eventually Loiselle’s need for care grew and in September of 2010 she moved out of the personal care home and into the Regina Pasqua Hospital.  

“The way that she was moved out of the care home really bugged me. They told us that she couldn’t stay there anymore because she was too much work for them. Apparently she hadn’t had a bath in a really long time because they couldn’t get her into the tub and they had no lift,” explained her daughter, Annette Bachmann.

Loiselle began to suffer from dementia around this time and because of this wasn’t able to properly communicate her needs to her family. 

The care home, “sent her to the hospital by ambulance; that way she would get admitted faster,” Bachmann said. Once rushed there with no medical emergency, she lay in bed for two days in the emergency room hallway.

“The personal care home should have told us a lot sooner how difficult it was getting for them to care for her. We would have started looking for nursing homes a lot sooner. Maybe she wouldn’t have had to go to the hospital at all if they would have told us,” Bachmann said.

Loiselle moved into a hospital room and waited in the hospital for nearly two months. She lay there every day waiting. Waiting for when, where and if she would be moved to a nursing home. 

As of November 2010, there are 29 occupied beds in the ALC (awaiting long term care) ward, in the Regina Pasqua Hospital. When Loiselle’s name was first put on a nursing home list she was number 86. This happens more frequently than people think. There is a long waiting list for most nursing homes and special care facilities in Regina, the province and across Canada.

Currently 12 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population is over the age of 65.  In just twenty years, Statistics Canada suggests, 33 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population will be 65 years of age and older. With the bulk of Saskatchewan’s baby boomer population increasing in age, the need for long term care facilities will grow.

That’s where Rob Van Norman comes in. He and his wife are the franchise owners of ‘Nurse Next Door’ in Saskatchewan. ‘Nurse Next Door’ is, “an alternative to people going to a long term care facility. We provide a service to help people stay in their own home. Almost a reversal of what you are talking about,” Van Norman said.

“As our senior numbers double, it’s going to have a tremendous impact across the country. There is no doubt that without changing the system things will get worse. It just depends on how we respond,” Van Norman explained.

‘Nurse Next Door’ and programs like these could help lessen the burden on the health care system and families.

Some health regions in Saskatchewan have already started responding. “The Saskatoon health region has a program that gives some individual seniors upwards of $6000 to $7000 a month to assist them with the care and services they require. I believe that this system saves the government substantial amounts of money and the (seniors) are happier and healthier as a result,” Van Norman emphasized.

This is “something that would be really prudent to explore for Regina’s health region. There are other options out there,” Van Norman said.

The Regina Qu’Appelle health region is looking into setting up a senior care system, likely to model Saskatoon’s. However, Regina’s health region would not go into further details about when the project might begin.

If the Regina Qu’Appelle health region doesn’t start investing in long term care for seniors, “there is a shortage of long term care facilities, which probably means that money has to be invested in bricks and building new buildings to accommodate seniors,” Van Norman said.

Meanwhile, the burden falls onto people like Bachmann.

She feels guilty that her mother is sitting alone and waiting in the hospital. So, every day after work she makes the trip to visit her.

“When she was in the hospital I would say that would have been the most stressful time for her family,” Bachmann said.

This wasn’t only difficult for Bachmann, but obviously for Loiselle as well. After she was admitted to hospital her mental state declined. She became disoriented. Her communication abilities were minimal.

“The nurse told me they call this the ‘twilight syndrome.’ It happens to a lot of seniors when they are out of the environment they’re used to and comfortable in. They totally shut down,” Bachmann said.

“It’s really worrying people my age: what are they going to do with all of us when we become seniors?” Bachmann said. “In the next 20 years it’s not going to get any better,” she said.

“There is no doubt that without changing the system things will get worse. As our senior numbers double, it’s going to have a tremendous impact across the country. It just depends on how we respond,” Van Norman said.

“There are creative people all across the country and I think that people will move to where the need and demand is. It currently is a struggle to find all the care givers that we need.”  Unless something is done, “it’s only going to get worse,” Van Norman explained.

He is one of the few people in the health care industry offering a solution. People like Van Norman can only suggest and contribute so much. The provincial and federal governments will likely have to work together to tackle such a large health issue.