A recent provincial health ministry edict that has ordered hospitals to transfer patients to long-term care beds to free up space for COVID patients has left Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in crisis out in the cold, says the executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.
Cathy Barrick said those living with dementia in the community have been in a “holding pattern” for the past 13 months during the pandemic and those in crisis simply can’t get a placement in LTC, she said this week.
She said after a complete shutdown of LTC homes, some started up slowly and many have been sitting with “empty beds” while the vaccine rollout occurred.
She said some homes were just getting ready to admit residents when the MOH order came down and there is “no wiggle room” in the order for those in the community requiring help.
“COVID for sure has messed up everything,” Barrick said, adding that long-term care homes are permitted to refuse clients who wander, are aggressive or have other issues.
She said some of their clients have been told explicitly by a care coordinator from a Local Health Integration Network (LIHN), which oversee health care in designated areas, that they should call 911 and have their loved one admitted to hospital if they hope to get an LTC bed.
She cited the case of Joe (not his real name) who has been ravaged by young-onset Alzheimer’s disease and has been on the crisis list (for an LTC bed) since January.
His wife, Deanna (not her real name) — who is the sole care partner for him–is now completely “exhausted, isolated and struggling with burnout,” said Barrick.
She added Deanna is getting some community support during the day from personal support workers but she “can’t sleep” because Joe is up all night.
Rob McMahon, a spokesperson for the LTC ministry, said they understand that Ontarians with “complex health care needs” continue to wait for LTC home spaces.
He said in response to COVID-19, the province “modified and streamlined requirements for long-term care admissions, re-admissions and discharge” to make the challenges as simple as possible for families.
“New admissions from the community or from a hospital (including alternate level-of-care or ALC patients) to a long-term care home or retirement home can occur if the receiving home is not in a COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
He added that those waiting for placement can access personal support and nursing services through a LIHN.