All beds are not equal

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Points West Living will soon open an 88-bed supportive living facility in Stettler in tandem with the government closing Pine Ridge Lodge, a 40-bed long-term care facility attached to the hospital.
Points West is beautiful, spacious and comfortable and an important investment for seniors in the community.
But there is a debate. Have Stettler and surrounding area seniors gained or lost in this transfer of seniors’ care?
Proponents argue that even with the closure of Pine Ridge, Stettler has gained 48 new supportive living beds, including 38 beds designated for dementia patients.
Opponents argue that all beds are not equal.  Although Stettler has gained 88 new supportive living beds (Levels III and IV), they have lost 40 long-term care beds (Level V).
Carol Dyck, manager Stettler Housing Authority, gave an abbreviated definition of the five levels of care.  Level I is independent, no care at all.  Lodges accommodate people at Level II by providing cooking and cleaning.  Levels III and IV provide meals, cleaning and scheduled care (e.g. baths, medications).  Level V, usually referred to as long-term care, accommodates people requiring full care (feeding, lifting, etc.). Dementia patients can fall into levels III, IV or V.
From the floor layouts, literature on its Web page, and comments made by Doug Mills of Points West Living during a town and county tour on May 8, the facility is designed for Levels III and IV patients plus 16 units for independent living. There is not a designated area for long-term care and, in fact, Mills confirmed that only Level III and IV patients would be moved from Pine Ridge to Points West.
Long-term care patients don’t need spacious rooms, new décor and privacy behind closed doors.  They need responsive and readily available professional care.
“It’s too late to save Pine Ridge,” said unions, elected officials, caregivers and seniors advocates all agree.
But it’s not too late to start an aggressive fight to replace the lost long-term care beds. Stettler will need them back. The population is aging. It is not uncommon for Levels III and IV patients to evidently need Level V care before the end.
In other communities the provincial government has funded faith-based organizations and for-profit corporations to enable them to provide all levels of care. There are many examples but noteworthy is faith-based Shepherd’s Care in Edmonton, Hillcrest in Medicine Hat and Devonshire, a for-profit facility in south Edmonton. In each of these facilities long-term care has a designated and appropriately designed and staffed long-term care unit.
Until you’ve lived the system as a caregiver watching a loved one move through Levels I through V, the nuances between “supportive living” and “long-term care” don’t really resonant in one’s mind. But be assured they become a very big deal when appropriate Level V care is needed, but unavailable.
And that is the ultimate fear that many families and caregivers of seniors worry about with the imminent closure of Pine Ridge Lodge.

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