Residents need to support dementia care

To the Expositor:

I write this letter to support letters submitted by Larry Killens (‘Where do our politicians priorities lie?’, August 24, Page 5) and by Petra Wall (‘The time to act on quality of life issues in nursing homes is now,’ September 14, Page 5), but also in support of our elderly and the long-term care patients on this Island.

As we all know, the number of dementia related dieseases is on the rise and it is estimated that by the year 2030, Alzheimer’s disease will be at epidemic proportions.

With this in mind, it was very disconcerting to learn that the Manitoulin Centennial Manor Board of Directors has turned down the latest proposal for expansion at the Manor. This proposal for a continuum of care, with assisted living units and seniors apartments attached to the manor was extremely well put to the Manitoulin public by consultant Chris Stewart and seemingly received a large amount of support from Island residents.

I just recently (July 14, 2011) retired from Centennial Manor after being employed in the Nursing Department for 22 years.

During those years, I experienced everything imaginable while providing front-line nursing care to dementia patients. One very important element with this particular care was our beautiful secure unit, known in the past as “special care.” This unit provided a safe and dignified living area for residents suffering from dementia and also employed the highest staff-to-resident ratio in the entire facility.

After major renovations were completed in the mid-90s, special care emerged with a state-of-the-art “circular hallway design,” incorporated especially for the type of resident cared for in this unit.

After the “swinging axe” of the Harris Government’s “Common Sense Revolution” attacked and decimated provincial healthcare sectors, long-term care in Ontario went into a downhill skid and this was very evident at our own Centennial Manor.

Compounding problems was ineffective management, plummeting staff morale and labour/management strife. All of this concluded with compliance issues and then enforcement by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

At a monumental cost, private contractor operators such as Jarlette and Extendicare were brought in to supposedly rectify the situation. Somewhere in this mess “the powers that be” decided that the special care unit was no longer necessary and modifications were made and the unit ceased to exist.

In the fourth paragraph of Ms. Wall’s letter she speaks to the situation of residents with dementia being mixed in with residents who are cognitively unimpaired, defending their territory from agressive, disruptive dementia patients. I would like to add additional information to her statement. Imagine, if you will, how undignified it is for the dementia resident to be stared at, laughed at, ridiculed, whispered about and in many cases physically abused by “non-understanding” normal-care residents. Anyone who has ever worked a nursing floor in a facility where all designations of residents are housed together knows it is “no win” situation for all involved!

It is time for a wake up call. We the residents of Manitoulin Island must come together to support Centennial Manor. We must speak out against some municipalities’ refusal to financially support the Manor with tax dollars (if anything warrants the increased use of tax dollars, it’s long-term care). We must collectively demand increased funding from the provincial government and we the work of the administrator and top management.

I would suggest that to insure the survival of the Manor, a quality control committee be formed, including board members, management, workers, union reps, municipal reps, family members, health care professionals and private citizens.

On this committee’s table, first to be discussed should be moving ahead with the necessary expansion and a return to the principle of a “special care” unit for dementia residents.

We must all put our full support behind this facility. We have to instill in all Manitoulin residents how important it is to all of us and what a huge roll it will play in the future care of our ever increasing long-term care residents.

As Ms. Wall stated, I too am willing to help.

Greg Young
Big Lake