Edwin (Bud) Roberds decided a while ago to bequeath all his belongings to the Osprey Foundation, in hopes the money would go towards keeping the Broader Horizons adult day program flush for years to come.
“It’s my second home,” Roberds told the Star. “I recently had heart surgery, which never came out as well as expected, and I live fairly close to Broader Horizons so I get there daily. We’ve become a family, and for many of us there’s nowhere else to go.”
That’s why he’s so alarmed about a letter he received from Interior Health on June 8 informing him the program will be shut down for the summer due to a staffing issue.
“This is not beneficial for anyone. We’re all hurting. We can’t believe what we’ve heard,” said Roberds.
Cheryl Whittleton of Interior Health told the Star she realizes how upsetting the news is, but said the decision was unavoidable because two of their four positions are currently vacant. After advertising the positions internally, they are now looking externally for new people to apply.
“We’re telling anyone who has a care aid certificate plus a Class 4 driver’s license to contact Interior Health through Room to Grow, our website,” she said.
“We’re hopeful we’re going to get applicants, and now with the press if anyone’s out there thinking they’ll apply maybe this will convince them to get in touch with us.”
Whittleton said even if qualified applicants contact them right away, they’ll still have to close on June 30. The current plan is to have the program up and running again by September.
But Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall said that’s not good enough.
“This is my concern: how did this happen?” she asked. “Did these two give notice six months ago? Three months ago? One month ago? That would tell us if they’re caught in this situation of their own making or if they didn’t prioritize this properly.”
According to Mungall, Broader Horizons is an essential part of the community fabric.
“I’m disappointed all around. This is a very important program that provides respite for caregivers. Broader Horizons shows us that it is the more kind and more cost-saving option in caring for our seniors.”
Mungall, who is leading a workshop Thursday about making the community friendlier for people with dementia, said the closure will have profoundly disruptive consequences for some seniors.
“It’s going to be very disruptive to their lives. Dementia is an illness 24-7 and Broader Horizons provides important respite for families taking care of their loved ones. The key is familiarity, consistency and routine — and in this case, that routine and consistency will be broken.”
She said the impact reaches beyond the senior.
“It will cause distress and could have negative impacts on the illness, but it will also affect people in their lives and all of us in the community who care about our seniors.”
Mungall said she’ll continue to investigate, and expressed incredulity that Interior Health is without options.
“I’m pretty hopeful. If this is a staffing issue it means it can be corrected, and I believe that’s the case. But I think what’s important to note is that, part and parcel with this, we have known for years there is going to be a skilled labour shortage starting this year.”
Mungall said she tried to warn the government.
“Four years ago I was sounding alarm bells saying we need to expand programs like the care aid program, because the number one shortage is going to be in health and social services.”
She said the government is too late in addressing this shortage.
“I would say they’re definitely late for supper.”
Whittleton said Interior Health remains committed to Broader Horizons, and they’ll do whatever they can to have it running again by September.
“My team and Interior Health sees the value in these types of program and we understand they help people stay in their homes longer,” she said. “Home is the best option, and we have no intention of shutting this program down.”