Kootenay seniors, their caregivers, community members and politicians are urging Interior Health to explore all available options before going ahead with the plan to shutter the Broader Horizons adult day program for the summer starting on June 30.
“My father and I have been affected by the Broader Horizons closure,” Leslie Baxter told the Star. “My father has been going for two months and it has been a great help for me as well as very beneficial mentally and physically for him.”
Baxter said there are currently no other suitable or affordable options in the area for her father Bill. His time at the program gives her some respite in the midst of his demanding care, as well as giving him a chance to socialize and enjoy himself.
Baxter said due to the overwhelming summer heat and dearth of places that will welcome seniors in Nelson, she’s not what sure she’s going to do now. She said the situation has been causing her “a great deal of stress”.
“I am concerned that it may not open in September as well,” she said.
Baxter was not the only one to wonder aloud whether Interior Health was really going to open again in September. Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall previously told the Star she she suspected the closure may have been due to managerial incompetence or be part of a general push towards privatization.
Cheryl Whittleton of Interior Health has assured seniors that the program will be open again by September, and said they’re aggressively looking to fill two vacant positions needed to make that happen.
“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.”
But Becky Quirk of the Nelson & District Seniors Coordinating Society expressed her displeasure with the decision in an email, saying it leaves seniors “in the lurch”.
“There is speculation that this is the beginning of the end—that it won’t be reopening. There is also skepticism over the alleged reason for the closure—lack of staff. (One points to administrative incompetence—particularly around here where people are hungry for jobs.)”
Two long-time volunteers of Broader Horizons, Ellen Schmidt and Bernadette McAllister, decided to speak out about the closure, sharing some background with members of the community via email.
“Staff apparently do not know what will happen to their jobs. They (and we) are concerned for the clients—some of whom may be forced into a residential care situation way sooner than need be, and some of whom will need to fall back on home support or will wither away in isolation in their own homes.”
When reached by the Star, both McAllister and Schmidt expressed concern for they clients.
“I feel closing down for the summer will be a real setback for these people,” said McAllister. “They’re a family, and these people look forward to being with their family.”
Schmidt said many of the their clients are already isolated, and this may cause them to withdraw further from society.
“They may be withdrawn because their verbal skills are gone or their mobility is low. Maybe they don’t have family locally that can provide that sort of support, or they need a place to go for social activity, where they don’t have to worry about cooking. That way they feel they’re still a part of something and not living in some little apartment.”
She’s worried some of their clients won’t be able to return after months away.
“That’s the part that makes us really, really sad.”
Mark Blandford of the provincial Seniors Advocate Office said their office is now looking into the closure.
“We will be liaising with Interior Health and will endeavour to get more information about the program’s status,” he wrote in an email to the Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society.
Mungall said the Broader Horizons staff are willing to work through their vacations and commit to additional hours to avoid the closure going ahead.
“Everyone involved with Broader Horizons knows the value of this program and are willing to ensure it stays open this summer,” said Mungall. “Surely we can find a solution if the IH is willing as well.”
Mayor Deb Kozak said the city has been staying abreast of the situation, and she’s instructed councillors Robin Cherbo, Michael Dailly and Bob Adams to keep a close eye on how it develops.
She liaised with concerned citizens and staff members, and shares their concern for the residents affected.
“We contacted IH to ask them if there’s anything we can do as a city to keep this program open. We provided suggestions to them and asked if maybe there was an alternate program for these residents who are losing their connection with Broader Horizons. So far we haven’t heard back.”