Lynn Pelly, guest speaker at our Seniors’ Presentation

The following is the speech given on February 25, 2013 by invited guest, Lynn Pelly, Executive Director of Princeton Community Services:

“I’m pleased to have the opportunity this evening to review some of the services currently available to seniors in our community. Princeton & District Community Services has been in existence since 1973. In the 40 years since its inception, the focus has been on the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities. Much has changed over time but our focus remains firm.

Community Services provides a number of services under their umbrella. Home support is one the larger programs and one that has held steady over the years. We currently have 39 community clients and 17 residents in our assisted living facility receiving home support services. The care for these 56 individuals is provided by a team of home support workers, a nurse supervisor and office staff who manage the scheduling, billing and record keeping. Community Services contracts with Interior Health to provide home support in Princeton and they set the standards and guidelines which we must follow. Almost all home support clients are referred to us by Interior
Health. Occasionally, we receive referrals from other agencies, such as ICBC or WorkSafe. Potential clients are assessed by Interior Health assessors, located at the Health Unit. These very busy ladies review the needs and finances of the individual and use that information when they make the referral to our office.

We cannot provide service to a client without this referral. The information we receive from the assessor states the number of hours of support, the number of days per week and the type of support required. The referral will also indicate whether the person will have a client contribution. We do not receive any financial information on the client but we are advised if the person is required to pay a per diem (daily) rate for the services that will be provided. This rate is based on the client’s income and determined by Interior Health staff. It is a daily rate which means that whether you receive 1 hour or 6 hours of support in a day, you pay the same rate. Of our current 56 clients, only 8 are paying a client contribution. For the rest of the clients, home support is a “free” service. Support levels for clients vary considerable and may range from 1 hour per week to 5 hours per day. Our service area includes Princeton and the surrounding rural areas. One of the advantages of living in a small town is that there is rarely a long waiting period for the assessment or for the support services to begin. Unfortunately, many people wait too long to ask for help. It is much more beneficial to introduce home support services before a crisis initiates the process.

Home support has changed over the years and the guidelines have definitely become more restrictive. Housekeeping, shopping and transportation are no longer considered home support duties. The emphasis is now on personal care, medication assistance, respite care and monitoring. Specific other duties are included for clients with particular needs and may include a variety of medical procedures. At one time, home support workers were not required to have any special training. As the responsibilities increased, more and more new employees had care aide training. We were also able to provide local upgrading for some of our long term employees, bringing their skills up to standard. More recently, it has become a contractual requirement that all home support workers be registered with the BC Care Aide Community Health Registry. While this is a positive step forward and assures clients that the individuals providing their care are skilled, it makes recruitment much more challenging.

Home support clients fall into various categories. Short term clients are those who will receive services for a time limited period due to post operative recovery or a specific injury or illness. Some clients will be termed palliative, when their life expectancy is anticipated to be limited. Persons receiving short term or palliative care are not required to pay a client contribution. The majority of clients are considered continuing care and we anticipate that their care will be on-going and reviewed and modified at regular intervals.

Assisted living includes home support in its complement of services. Vermilion Court was built in 1997 and created a unique partnership between the Ministry of Health, BC Housing and Community Services. Private funding from individuals and organizations contributed to the common areas of the building. It was one of the first assisted living/supported housing complexes in our region. It consists of 18 units (17 for residents and 1 for a live-in caretaker). Residents are able to live independently in their self-contained suites and are free to come and go as they please. All suites have a full kitchen, accessible bathrooms, roomy bedrooms and a balcony or patio. Prospective residents must require some level of home support, agree to pay for 2 meals per day (provided in the dining room), meet the rental criteria of BC Housing and the criteria for support set out by the Assisted Living Registry. Vermilion Court is funded by BC Housing, Interior Health and the residents.

Home support comes with a price tag. In the world of strained and limited budgets, more stringent guidelines have been imposed, resulting in guidelines that may restrict a person’s eligibility and level of service. We witness the unique needs of individuals on a first hand basis and strive to work within the system, while still providing a standard of care that supports people in their homes, without jeopardizing health or safety.

We also recognize that our home support service may not meet the needs of every individual. We cannot promise a client that they will have the same worker all the time or that their support will occur at the same time every day; we cannot do all the tasks that they would like us to do, only those that are authorized in the care plan. We cannot drive them to appointments or pay their bills, clean their homes or walk their pets. Sometimes the per diem rate for those who must pay a client contribution discourages them from accepting service. Fortunately, there are other organizations and individuals who may be able to meet their needs. We Care, Care a Lot and private care are options that are available. We are investigating a program called “Better at Home” that may address some of the gaps in the current home support system.

From our perspective, we would like to do more for our home support clients. We know that maintaining people at home and out of hospital or facility care will meet the needs of seniors and save thousands of dollars. Keeping people at home will also ease the strain on facilities.

Community Services also provides other support services that assist in keeping seniors at home and well.

We administer a successful Meals -on- Wheels program that provides home cooked, nutritious meals, 7 days a week, at a reasonable cost. The meals are prepared at Vermilion Court and are distributed by our staff at noon each day. The cost is $6 for clients; $7 for non-clients and the meal includes soup, salad, main course and dessert. For many clients, the meal is large enough to cover both lunch and supper. Clients may choose the number of days they wish to receive meals each week and are able to provide dietary information on the registration form. These forms are available at our office (47 Harold Ave.) or by calling 250-295-6666.

When Vermilion Court was built, one of the added features was a bathing room, equipped to facilitate residents or community clients who have difficulty in accessing the bathtubs/showers in their own suites or homes. The original Century Tub in VC was replaced several years ago with a walk-in style jetted tub (made possible through the generous assistance of the local Hospital Auxiliary). Several residents and numerous community clients enjoy this accessible bathing option. Insurance restrictions stipulate that only clients may make use of this resource. We are currently exploring options for a new and improved tub, which will be roomier and easier to clean.

We also contract with Interior Health to provide the Adult Day Program. This is a social, recreational and health oriented program for seniors and targets those individuals who aren’t able or inclined to get out into the community or those who might benefit from activities that stimulate minds and bodies. It is also a safe place for caregivers to bring their loved ones so they can enjoy a break from their care-giving duties. ADC takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-3 at the Vermilion Court lounge. Transportation is available and a hot meal is provided at minimal cost.

Community Services also has a limited number of wheelchairs available for long term rental. This service is available to assist individuals who require a wheelchair for an extended period of time. We require a $10 deposit and a $5 per month rental fee. The original wheelchairs were donated by various service clubs and while some have had to be relegated to the salvage yard, we still have a few available. The OAPO #185 recently donated $1500 for the purchase of a new wheelchair.

We also administer the BC Transit service in Princeton. Funded by BC Transit, the Town of Princeton, the Regional Districts, the Town of Keremeos and Interior Health, this service provides local and out of town service to Penticton. Local service is available Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and runs from 8:30 to 4:00. Service to Penticton (via Hedley, Keremeos, Cawston and Olalla) is Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pick up in Princeton starts at 7:30 and the bus leaves Princeton at 8:00. Passengers are picked up at their homes, if they live within town boundaries, and at various points along the way to Penticton. Once in Penticton, passengers are dropped off at their appointments, at shopping centers or other designated sites. Pick up for the return trip begins at 1:00, with the bus leaving Penticton at 1:30 and returning to Princeton around 3:00 – 3:30. The cost from Princeton is $8 return. Local trips are $1.50 one way. Pre-booking is recommended as many days are very busy, both locally and out of town. Anyone can use the service but we require that they pre-register. The bus is wheelchair accessible.
There has been some discussion about extending the service to include Kelowna, as more and more community members have specialist and treatment appointments in Kelowna. Centralized health care has made it difficult for many people but especially seniors, to access services away from their home community. This is an on-going concern.

Affordable housing is also a fundamental focus for Community Services. We currently administer the Aspen Court complex, a 15 unit, BC Housing site for low income families. We own Mary Anne Court (a 6 unit low income apartment building for persons with developmental disabilities) and Victoria House (residential living for developmentally disabled adults), located on Allison Flats. We also own Vermilion Court (18 unit assisted living facility for seniors and persons with disabilities) on Fenchurch Ave. BC Housing provides an operating budget for Aspen Court, Mary Anne Court and Vermilion Court. The Board continues to explore opportunities to increase the affordable housing options for Princeton residents.

Community Services is only one of the organizations that support seniors. We have very active seniors’ clubs that offer much in the way of socialization, recreational activities and educational opportunities. The hospital and health unit provide a team of individuals who support seniors in a variety of ways (mental health, drug and alcohol, physiotherapy, public health, flu clinics, social work, home care nursing, diabetic clinics, a dietician); outreach services are available for services not located locally; the police-based victim services worker will assist those who have been impacted by abuse or crime; there are a number of individual volunteers who assist seniors (and others) in a number of ways. Ridgewood Lodge allows us to keep seniors in their home community, close to family and friends. We have a fully functioning lab and x-ray department. We have organized groups who are working to retain and improve services in our community. We are fortunate to live in a caring community, where people look out for each other.

We must never become complacent with what we have or accepting of what we have lost. And we must continually look for solutions “outside the box”. So often we simply decry the lack of funding and assume it is the root of all our problems. It is far more proactive to search for ways to accomplish our goals with limited means and innovative solutions.

I would encourage you to keep active, stay healthy and embrace life. We must work together to achieve realistic goals. Treasure your independence but graciously accept help when needed. Appreciate the good things we do have and share that appreciation with those who support you.

Thank-you for the opportunity to participate in this evening. My goal was to identify the good things that are happening for seniors in Princeton, identify some areas where improvement is needed and encourage positive change driven by realistic goals and financial prudence. I hope I have accomplished that goal.

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