Thursday, April 17, 2014

Assisted living need great as ever

The goal: To build for seniors an attractive, not-for-profit, fully-secured, free-standing assisted living facility in Rainy River District that is built in accordance with The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and Building Code, which will be enforced in 2025.
The key to success: Collaboration.

That’s the message sent by the Assisted Living Action Group (A.L.A.G.), which bent town council’s ear Monday night.
A.L.A.G. vice-chair June Caul and Darryl Galusha, director of senior services and administration at Rainycrest Long-Term Care here, spoke in front of more than 30 people who filled the public gallery at the Civic Centre, including a carload of people who drove in from Emo despite the cold—evidence of the urgent need for assisted living in Rainy River District.
A.L.A.G. has been directly gathering information from district residents and consulting professionals for the past couple years, and there is no doubt an assisted living facility is needed here, they both told council.
Galusha said “baby-boomers” (those born between 1947-1966) are coming of age. They began turning 60 in 2007 and the number of “boomers” turning 60 will peak in 2026—just 12 years from now.
By 2027, “boomers” will start turning 80—with that number peaking in 2046.
In 2025, the “Silver Tsunami” will begin and so will what some are calling “the crushing of long-term care within Ontario,” Galusha added.
“We’ve got 12 or 11 years to sort of get ahead and plan,” he said. “So we’re looking at trying to plan and sustain for this event.”
Baby-boomers will live longer than today’s older adults.
Right now, the average age of someone entering a
long-term care home in Ontario is 86. At Rainycrest, there are five people who are over 100 years old—and all of them have their faculties (one of them had his driver’s licence until just recently).
Galusha said he’s getting phone calls from seniors on a daily basis who need assistance but not necessarily long-term care.
“Right now, out of [the] 164 people within Rainycrest, I have 42 of those people who do not need to be at Rainycrest . . . they don’t need to be there,” he noted.
“We can provide them top-quality care within the community but there’s nothing in the community.
“They could be tax-paying people within the community that we could be taking care of within their own homes,” Galusha reasoned.
“But there’s no infrastructure, so we’re taking care of them at a high cost within a long-term care facility.”
A survey of district residents 18 months ago indicated 85 percent (267 people) are interested in an assisted facility for themselves or a loved one.
Some 51 percent (286 people) would move into an assisted living facility within three years if one were built here.
Since that time, some of these respondents have died, some have gone to Rainycrest, some have moved out of the district, and some are poised to move.
In that same survey, 54 percent of those surveyed said that if an assisted living facility were built within the district, but not in their home community, they would move to where the facility is.
Some 27 percent said they would move out of the district.
Galusha said losing residents not only means a decreased tax base, but losing “the hub” of the community and losing a reason for other people to come back to Fort Frances, noting he returned here because of his parents.
“We’re losing people at a great rate,” he warned.
“We’re not only losing our youth to the oilsands, we’re not only losing our skilled professionals, we’re losing at the back end, as well—the people that built this community,” he stressed.
On the other hand, having an assisted living facility not only will keep seniors here but sustain the municipal tax base, keep money in the local economy, create jobs, and likely draw new residents or draw back those who’d previously left—the latter of which happened in Kenora and Sioux Lookout.
Galusha said there are more than 100 assisted living units in Kenora and Sioux Lookout, and that community recently got funding for 18 more.
“The opportunities are great and the opportunities are there, but we have to be able to look at that,” he remarked.
“I’m not saying we need to build a free-standing structure,” he added. “We can also look at options that are there within the community.”
Caul said she had to see her own mother move to Rainycrest when she didn’t need to be there, and it was hard on her.
She also saw two aunts move to other cities “because there was no place to go here when they felt they needed to get out of their home but they weren’t candidates for Rainycrest.”
While cost and affordability has been identified as a top concern amongst residents when it comes to assisted living, Galusha said it’s clear that people are willing to pay extra money to stay in the district.
“They’ve lived, they’ve saved, they’ve paid taxes and they want to keep it in the community,” he noted.
“They want to continue to live where they built their families, they want to continue to stay in the community where they raised their children and earned their living.”
The plan
The assisted living housing would be for seniors (over 55) who are in need of some support services, but are able to perform basic independent activities of daily living.
The number of units will be determined and built for seniors who currently are in need of assisted living accommodations and personal services.
Units will be a combination of subsidized and market rent (ownership possibly could be negotiated).
The bricks and mortar of Phase 1 of seniors’ housing will house future services that will provide customized personal support, and will allow seniors to age at home as long as possible (i.e., nutritional food preparation, transportation, laundry, housekeeping, 24/7 on-site personal support, and medical supervision).
The ideal location would be in close proximity to health-care facilities, with social and recreational amenities nearby.
A.L.A.G. has met with local MPP Sarah Campbell and NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and gotten their “passionate support,” said Caul.
The group also has worked with district councils and administrative staff to identify and visit potential building sites in Fort Frances, Emo, and Rainy River.
As well, A.L.A.G. has participated in the Fort Frances Assisted Living Group Committee of the North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to establish assisted living services for high-risk seniors who live either in their own home or apartment.
These services would be accessible 24/7 and would support seniors to age at home.
This model is intended to supplement existing services, not replace them.
A.L.A.G. also will continue to work with community partners such as Rainycrest.
“The key to success is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration,” Caul stressed.
“The benefits of collaboration is a legacy to the future of the Rainy River District and to future generations; to make sure we’re here to take care of each other in the future,” echoed Galusha.
Town council and administration agreed to meet with A.L.A.G. in-camera (behind closed doors) next month, as per its request.

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