Recently, as members of the Wildrose caucus, we questioned the government on the AHS divorce-by-nursing-home policy. This is the policy that forcibly separates couples who have been married for decades by placing them in long-term care centres far away from each other for the convenience of administrators.
The rules currently allow AHS to transfer long-term care residents up to 100 kilometres from their homes and families. If a married couple is forced to separate because of AHS rules, it could see one partner go one way and another in the complete opposite direction, effectively placing 200 kilometres between partners who have loved and supported each other through decades of marriage.
Take for example the case of a couple in the Crowsnest Pass. They were married for 63 years but now face health challenges. The 90-year-old husband has Parkinson’s but he’s able to get along well. His wife has terminal cancer and is very ill. Their doctor has been able to keep them together in community support beds in the local long-term care centre for the last while so they can be together. But AHS rules say the husband has to be in a lodge and must move. That means he’ll have to pay for a cab ride to see his wife, plus additional charges for his meals.
In another divorce-by-nursing-home case, a couple of 71 years from Red Deer was forced to separate. The wife is in extended care but the husband is on the waiting list and remains in expensive private care. The separation is painful for both, and the stress on the husband of the trip back and forth is difficult for both him and his caregivers.
It’s hard to think of a more cruel and inhumane policy than forcing lifelong partners to separate when they are most vulnerable.
The worst part is that the 100-km policy was never intended to be permanent. It was brought in during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic as a stop-gap measure to weather the crisis. The policy was supposed to expire but it somehow became permanent.
The current government has no plans to get rid of it. The minister of health and the government have not taken the issue seriously, leaving many seniors living this dreadful nightmare situation of divorce-by-nursing-home.
Divorce-by-nursing-home is just another example of how the centralization of the AHS superboard is failing Albertans. Seniors built this province; they deserve better. As your MLA I am working to change this policy so seniors can stay living together in their final years. This is a commitment we in the official Opposition have made, and we will do everything in our power to force this government to change this disastrous policy.
As your local MLA, I value your insight on this matter, or any other concern you may have. Please contact my office at (403) 638-5025 or by email at Rimbey.Rockymountainhouse.Sundre@assembly.ab.ca