LETTER: Handling of Broader Horizons closure cause for concern

Reader Becky Quirk: "IH has spent more time and effort 'managing' this issue than was expended avoiding the issue in the first place."

Re: “Broader Horizons hires new staff, will reopen

We were pleased to see this article announcing the reopening of the Broader Horizons seniors day program in September. It also states that Interior Health’s Cheryl Whittleton said concerns about the program’s future were unfounded.

The handling of this situation has provided legitimate reasons for concern about the Broader Horizons program. Broader Horizons serves many people living with dementia and provides vital respite care for their caregivers. Predictable activities in a relaxed atmosphere are critical for dementia patients and others. Loss of a regular, known and predictable program can cause — and has caused — irreparable harm. Managers for a program designed to care for people with dementia should be aware of this fact.

Against this backdrop, we have many concerns about the manner in which this shutdown happened and what that means for the future.

1) The program should not have been closed. The claimed staffing shortage should have been anticipated. This program was identified as an essential service and steps should have been taken to keep it open. Management failed to do this, providing concern for the future of the program.

2) An interruption in service to dementia patients can result in irreversible harm to them. Those who permitted the abrupt closure of this program did not take this in to consideration or it was not a priority for them.

3) The people who use the Broader Horizons program were only given two weeks notice by letter that the program would be closing for the summer. This would be short notice under ideal circumstances. Finding care for a person with dementia is even more challenging.

4) The letter from Interior Health sent out announcing the closure included this sentence: “I will update clients and families by letter if or when we are in a position to re-open the program or there are further planned changes.” The word “if” provides a very legitimate reason for concerns about the future of the program. In addition, six weeks passed before there was any further communication from Interior Health. The lack of information gave Broader Horizons users and their caregivers legitimate reason to wonder what was going on.

The Seniors Coordinating Society, Broader Horizons users and their caregivers will all continue to monitor the administration of this valuable program. The handling of it to date has given us concerns. In our opinion Interior Health has spent more time and effort “managing” this issue than was expended avoiding the issue in the first place. We can hope Interior Health will not let this happen again and will not diminish this valuable service to a vulnerable part of our community. The Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society stands ready to assist seniors and caregivers encountering difficulties with systems and services for seniors.

Becky Quirk, Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society

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