Will County retirement homes be regulated out of existence?
In the early hours of January 23, 2014, a horrific fire ripped through a retirement residence in Quebec. Thirty two of the home’s 52 residents died in the blaze.
In 2015, Quebec’s coroner’s office released a report condemning the owner’s failure to protect residents.
Among the faults laid out in the report was the absence of a sprinkler system. It was news that pushed the Ontario government, already looking to introduce new fire code regulations over a 10- year period, to move faster.
Perhaps too fast.
Prince Edward County is a place without many big, new buildings. There is neither the money, the population nor the will to build large, industrial retirement homes. For seniors who aren’t ready for long-term care, but need some help in their lives, options are limited—most retirement homes are converted Victorian houses with added ensuite bathrooms and chairlifts.
The owners of these homes can’t afford to provide the care they once offer and also pay for those things the new regulations demand, like sprinkler systems.
In November The Times described how one such home, Publow House was struggling to manage the ever-increasong regulatory burden. Today, Publow House is reverted to a rooming house. Since that story ran in November, owner Bernadette Storms has relinquished the residence’s licence as a retirement home in January after she determined she couldn’t pay for the installation of sprinklers and other requirements.
Some of her clients are staying on as tenants. Others have had to leave, unable to remain without the assistance Storms once provided. For example, she and her staff are no longer permitted under the law to assist residents with using the chairlift. Or ensuring they take the correct medication at the correct time—a challenge for those with dementia, or the visually impaired.
For Geri Claxton’s mother, Publow House was the perfect spot.
Barbara Claxton was born in Saskatchewan. A born wanderer, she did what many young Canadians with wanderlust do: she went west. That’s where she met the love of her life, a County-born Mountie.
A quarter century ago, upon her husband’s retirement, the couple moved back to his childhood home, buying a house in Cherry Valley. They got involved in the community. Barbara joined the Kiwanis club and became president of the hospital auxiliary.
When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Barbara’s husband was her rock. He helped her, made sure she took her medication, made sure she stayed active. But then he got sick, too. That’s when Geri moved from BC to join her parents, to take care of them as they had once taken care of her.
But when her husband died, Barbara wanted to be closer to town.
“She loves it there,” says Geri. “The best thing for her was to move from being isolated out in Cherry Valley to Publow House. Because she could get out and she could walk… she got her independence back.”
Barbara is one of the lucky ones. She can stay where she is. Her daughter works in town, and is willing to come in and assist with medication. But Geri says other residents aren’t as lucky.
“[Some seniors] are really getting shoved aside, because there’s no other options for them,” says Geri. “We’re led to believe lots of services will exist for people if they can’t stay in their own home and they’re not ready for long-term care. But it’s not true… people are not getting the support they need.”
Geri says those who can’t be fully independent, but also don’t need a nursing home are the ones getting lost. If they don’t have enough money for one of the more expensive retirement homes, if they don’t have family that can help out, they can fall through the cracks.
“The whole system around that is failing, and it’s failing seniors the worst. People who don’t have any other options. There are a lot of seniors who live here who don’t have family that live close by. It’s a struggle,” she says. “This is an issue. These are taxpayers. Some of these people are the ones that built this community, that have been around for a long time. And now, when they need stuff, it’s not there for them.”