Province looks to keep people out of long-term care for longer

People in assisted-living residences will soon have more options to stay longer and access more services to avoid being prematurely moved into long-term care, says B.C.’s health minister.

The changes to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, announced Wednesday in New Westminster by Adrian Dix, will come into force on Dec. 1. The regulations will give people, including seniors and people with disabilities, the flexibility to stay in their communities longer.

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“What this means is people will be able to live in assisted living longer and to continue to pursue an independent life longer,” Dix said.

The province is also eager to have more of a growing population of seniors live in their homes with home care support or in the community in assisted living suites rather than in more expensive residential care homes, many of which have wait-lists.

The lack of residential care beds is one reason cited for patients in need of 24-hour care spending extended stays in hospital beds as they have nowhere else to go.

Currently, those in assisted-living facilities must require “two and only two” prescribed services, such as managing medication and provision of and monitoring therapeutic diets, he said. Those requiring more support — assistance with the activities of daily living, behaviour management, psychosocial supports, or safekeeping of money and personal property, for example — were asked or advised to move along to long-term care.

“The gulf between assisted living and long-term care is large,” Dix said.

Assisted living offers semi-independent housing — private rooms in a house or an apartment-style building with suites — that provides extra supports for daily living, such as meals, recreation, medication management and psychosocial supports.

Long-term care is 24-hour care. Placing people in long-term care prematurely could take away their independence and sense they are still living in their own home, Dix explained.

“When you think of the variety of needs of seniors and the variety of seniors in our province, we need to, I think, support assisted living,” he said.

Dix said there are 7,700 assisted living units in B.C., of which 4,400 are publicly funded.

The amendments to the act will remve the maximum of two prescribed services for assisted-living clients and allow decisions for placement or a continued stay to be made on a broader basis.

“What this means for people is they will not be forced prematurely to leave assisted living when they neither want to or need to,” Dix said. “This is a very significant change.”

Dix cited B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie, who has spoken out on the issue of seniors being placed in residential care despite being able to live independently in the community if they had more access to basic medical and housekeeping home care or assisted-living options.

The new regulations will also give the assisted-living registrar the ability to investigate such residences. The system is currently complaint driven.

Amendments to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act were passed by the legislature in 2016 but never enacted. Time was needed to develop the regulations, said the Health Ministry.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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