Some city seniors are worried cuts to home care services by Vancouver Coastal Health will hinder their ability to remain at home.
Eighty-two-year-old Violet Clarke, who lives in Steeves Manor—an independent-living housing complex next to Jericho Park—said the housecleaning services she needs to remain at home were cancelled last week. Clarke, who can’t stand without a walker, previously had two hours of housecleaning a week as part of her home care services. The worker scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom of Clarke’s tiny apartment, washed the floor, changed the bedding and vacuumed.
“I can bathe myself and do my own laundry and dishes,” said Clarke. “I just can’t do everything.”
Prior to Clarke’s housecleaning service being cut off, she was visited by a health care worker who asked numerous questions.
“She asked me who has power of attorney—twice,” said Clarke. “I thought the idea was to keep us out of nursing homes for as long as possible, but that’s not how it looks now.”
Clarke said she was referred to a housecleaning service organized by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House through which she can hire UBC students for $10 an hour, but the idea of having strangers in her home makes her nervous. She’s also on a fixed income.
Another West Side senior told the Courier her housecleaning service was also cut recently from five hours a week to 75 minutes.
Sally Speers has cerebral palsy on her right side. She can maintain some personal hygiene, but not all. And she can’t scrub floors. She’ll now receive assistance with some meal preparation and to bathe twice a week.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” said Speers, who added the worker who visited her inquired about her next of kin.
Steeves Manor residents Suzanne and Bill Bartlett also had their housecleaning services cut last week. Suzanne explained Bill wasn’t expected to live past last summer due to complications from cancer and Crohn’s disease. Bill returned home from hospital last year expected to die, but instead thrived under his wife’s 24-hour care with the help of palliative services.
Bartlett, who’s 75, can do some cleaning, but an ongoing mouse infestation has created problems beyond her capabilities.
“They put down poison, but the mice don’t drop dead in the middle of the floor,” said Bartlett. “The cleaner has to move furniture to find them and to vacuum the feces. I’m not very tall and that poor girl could see the top of the fridge and it’s always covered in mouse urine and feces. Plus they crawl all over the kitchen counters.”
Bartlett added the worker who visited previous to when the service was cut asked several times about the couple’s children and whether they have power of attorney.
“That makes me worry they’re going to try and force us into a nursing home,” she said.
Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Trudy Beutel said such questions are part of a review of 4,000 clients across the province to update their files.
She said while there have been no budget cuts, demand for home care is up by 10 per cent.
“Vancouver Coastal Health needs to remain accountable so launched this review,” said Beutel. “They’re finding some [people] need more help than others.”
She confirmed some clients are losing housekeeping services.
“It was decided money for health care services should be redirected back to health care,” Beutel said.