Posted on May 28, 2018

Bill 203: Long-Term Care Homes Act

Quilt of Valour Presentation at Summerwood Village Retirement Residence

Ms McKitrick: Thank you. I'm delighted to speak to this bill. I wanted to start off first by expressing my disappointment in the remarks that were made earlier today but especially by reading this
other thing that I read on Twitter recently where members of the UCP or their allies were commenting on the background of MLAs in this House. I have to say that I am very proud to be here as an MLA with at least three MLAs on our side who've actually worked in long-term care, and I think we're really representing . . .

The Deputy Chair: Hon. member, sorry to interrupt. Are you speaking to the bill?

Ms McKitrick: I am. I'm addressing the expertise . . .

The Deputy Chair: Okay. Please go ahead.

Ms McKitrick: . . . of MLAs to be able to speak to this bill. We actually have MLAs on this side of the House – I don't know about the opposite side – who've actually worked in long-term care and who really understand thoroughly the issues around long-term care and the dilemmas that elderly people and their families face. I am very confident that the bill that the MLA for Red Deer-North has proposed really meets the needs of those seniors that we've been talking about all afternoon.

I'm really thankful to her because she has acknowledged that this is something that she's worked on for many years and that she learned from experience in working in these places. I have never worked in a long-term care hospital. I haven't worked with elderly people very much, but I also know that the work that happens by the staff requires someone to be not only caring but also to be involved in doing a lot of things that are not always the most pleasant. You really have to work with elderly people and make sure that they're fed, that they have proper hygiene, and that their emotional, spiritual, and physical comforts are met. I think this bill comes from some very powerful experiences. It comes from the experience of someone who has experienced firsthand what it means to be either a patient or a family member in these facilities. I wanted to thank her, and I wanted us to be reminded that in this House our private members' bills and the things that we're passionate about come from our own experiences and the lives that we've led and the expertise we have by doing that. So I wanted to start off by saying that.

I did a little bit of research, like most of the members, and I realized that I could not find any place where I would find the whole list of available facilities in the Edmonton area, because I happened to be the MLA for Sherwood Park, that included the name of the facility; the website; if it was private, public, or not-for-profit; who had the ownership – was the ownership local if it was private, or was it a multinational? – and the kind of staff that you had and the staff ratio and the quality; and especially the cost of the extra services that are provided or what will be the costs, because all of the time it says to you: well, you need to contact the facilities, and then the costs will become apparent.

Last weekend – the MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park was with me – we went to visit a seniors' facility. In talking with one of the seniors, the first thing she said to me: you know, I really, really like this place, but I don't know if I can afford it for a very long time. She said: my children put me in this place, but it's very, very expensive. This really was a great reminder to me that if I was going to put any elderly relatives into long-term care, I would really need to make sure that I knew the costs, especially the costs of extra services, and that I would have to evaluate carefully what the costs are over the long term. 

I think that probably the year after I was elected, an elderly gentleman came to visit me in my office, and he begged me to go visit his wife in one of these long-term care places in Sherwood Park. He had to pay over $1,200 a month so that his wife would be fed. She had dementia. She could no longer feed herself, and if he was going to have somebody feed her three times a day, he had to pay for that service. Of course, his budget had not accounted for it. So the gentleman every single day prepared food for his wife that she liked and went every single mealtime to feed her because he could not afford the cost of having somebody else feed his wife. I went with him, and I visited him as he fed his wife. It was a very moving experience for me not only because this gentleman obviously cared for his wife deeply but because when his wife had to go to this place, nobody had told him that if her dementia got progressively worse, then he would be on the hook for paying to have her fed. So I'm very concerned about these issues.

I'm also very concerned about the fact that couples are often split. If I was putting a couple in a facility, I would want to know: what are the policies for these couples in the facility? What is going to happen when they do require two levels of care? Will the facility split them up? Do they have arrangements? Do they have any special policies that will allow elderly couples to be together? I think that as MLAs we've all heard of the really sad stories when an elderly couple is separated. I recently dealt with one of those cases, that I'm still working on to see if something can be done.

What I would like to ask the Member for Red Deer-North – I have actually, really, two questions because none of my research on the Internet has allowed me to know the answers. I'm really hoping that the bill will provide these answers to me. My two main questions that I'm hoping this bill will cover are: in your research have you found a website that has all of these long-term care facilities that are available in one place with all of the information that we're talking about? Then my second question is – I'm particularly interested in this – is there any place that you've found where the additional charges to the families or to the patient are outlined? I think that, for me, too, one of the questions that I'm really wondering about: on a website is there any place where the level of the staff, the training of the staff, the number of staff, staff ratio are and also what's available 24 hours, what's available only at night, and what's available during the day? Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, hon. member. Are there any other members wishing to speak? The hon. Member for Red Deer-North.

Mrs. Schreiner: Well, thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to the Member for Sherwood Park. I appreciate very much your comments and your questions.

I have a very easy answer to your question. Is there a website available right now with all of that important information that seniors and their loved ones are looking for when they want to put a loved one in a long-term care facility? Absolutely not. That's why we're bringing this bill forward. That's why this bill needs to actually be a bill, because that information is not available right now. There are different websites that offer piecemeal information, but there's not a website with all of the facilities, the over 170 facilities that we have in Alberta in over 100 communities. There is not a website that has all of those facilities entered and what services they offer and what those sites look like, how many beds, whether they're accredited. So to answer your question, no, there is not a website.

The additional charges. There are a few jurisdictions across the country that have additional charges online, but this is something that we need to have in Alberta as well so that when a loved one is going into long-term care, we know exactly how much money it's going to cost them to live there month to month, whether there's an additional charge, like you were saying, to take someone to the dining room, whether there's an additional charge for foot care or an additional charge for the beauty salon, what all those additional charges are. I hear over and over and over again from my constituents that they were shocked to see a bill at the end of the month with these additional charges that they were not informed about and had no idea about. I thank you very much for bringing those concerns forward, and you're absolutely right. There is nothing right now, and this is what we're trying to do with this bill, to have that easily accessible online website that has all the information that seniors are looking for, including additional charges and how many beds the facility has. Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, hon. member. Are there any other members wishing to speak to the bill? The hon. Member for Sherwood Park.

Ms McKitrick: Yeah. Thank you for your answer, but you didn't really address the whole issue of staff qualification. I think this is an issue that loved ones really want to know about, the qualification of the staff, who they're supervised by. And some other questions have also come to my attention. Is there a doctor that visits? Do you have to have your own doctor? So what other information do you think is not currently available in one place that, from your own experience, would really benefit ourselves as possible people who will be in long-term care or family members? Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: The hon. Member for Red Deer-North.

Mrs. Schreiner: Well, thank you to the Member for Sherwood Park for asking that question. You're absolutely right. This is something that's important to seniors and their loved ones. When they're looking to place someone into long-term care, they want to know if there will be doctors' visits in the facility. They want to know if there's a registered nurse there in the facility 24/7. They want to know if there are licensed practical nurses and health care aides to make sure that their loved ones are getting all of their needs met as well as if there is a dietary professional to be able to assess their loved ones. Will there be recreation therapy that will, you know, help keep their loved ones happy? They want to know what the staff ratios are. This is something that is absolutely very important. I know that this bill will enable to have that information online so people can look to see that, yes, there's a registered nurse that's there 24/7; yes, the doctors come and visit at least once a week and do their doctor's report. It's very important information. Whether or not there's a dentist that comes to the facility to look after their loved ones, whether there's a wound care specialist, nurse practitioners: all that information will be right there readily accessible on that online website, a very important website. Thank you. Thank you for the question.