LETTER: Dialogue needed over Broader Horizons closure

Reader Gail Russell excoriates the IHA and gives a gripping account of the effects of the facility closure.

Thank you to the Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society for taking on the leadership role and organizing a forum for 21 caregivers to vocalize their concerns regarding the Broader Horizons closure, process and lack of information on the progress towards reopening. Interior Health local administrator Cheryl Whittleton was invited to attend this meeting but declined.

I facilitate the Nelson Alzheimers Society of BC Caregivers Support Group. Our caregiver members feel disrespected, marginalized and under-supported. They were given only two weeks notice of the closure, no initial support option, and then very limited additional supports.

The Broader Horizons clients went from receiving support one to five four-hour days per week (plus phone calls and bus time) to no more than two one or two-hour home visits per week. The respite time to caregivers is about half of the home visit time once you allow for transition of caregiving responsibilities and travel times. The caregivers lost the four to five hour respite days that attendance at Broader Horizons provided — time they need to recharge and involve themselves in restorative activities.

The clients lost the sense of purpose, friendship and belonging that the established routines of Broader Horizons attendance gave them. I have been informed of a rapid return of depression (an individual crying for hours and expressing thoughts of worthlessness that virtually disappeared with attendance at Broader Horizons), increasing confusion, lethargy, wandering, and changes in physical health related to the loss of activities, nourishment and the stimulation that days at Broader Horizons provided. These deteriorations are heart wrenching for everyone involved and some will not be reversible with the resumption of Broader Horizons attendance.

The Broader Horizons program for the participants and the respite Broader Horizons provides to caregivers are absolutely necessary services. Necessary, too, if society and IHA expect families to provide in-home care in order to delay or avoid facility placement.

During previous strike action Broader Horizons was declared an essential service and was kept open for the clients with the greatest needs. Why wasn’t a similar process worked out this time? How can IHA close Broader Horizons now for at least two months? Who was responsible for the lack of back-up staff that was apparent to others for over five months?

We had hoped that sharing the impact of Broader Horizons’ closure and dialogue with the IH administrator about the process could help prevent a similar problem in the future. This might have lead to some healing and restoration of the lost trust in IHA. We are seeking someone with greater authority than those in need, and those who care about them, to bring IHA to the table for constructive dialogue.

These are vulnerable souls who need our active support.

Gail Russell, Nelson

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