More seniors likely to be separated if care model doesn't change

The CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association says if money is not re-allocated from acute care beds to communities, more and more seniors will face separation from their loved ones in the coming years.

Industry association says 'heart-wrenching' stories will continue if current care model remains

Wolfram and Anita Gottschalk have been married 62 years and are being kept in separate care facilities in Surrey. Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, said changes must be made to the current care model to stop these stories from becoming more common. (Facebook/Ashley Bartyik)

Senior couples forced to live apart because of their care needs could become increasingly commonplace if changes are not made to the province's care model, an industry association CEO says.

The story of a couple married 62 years and kept in separate Surrey care facilities drew attention to the issue earlier this week.

Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, said creating care campuses that offer varying levels of services, and reallocating funding, could be the key to keeping loved ones together.

"We haven't got a model where there are a sufficient number of care campuses that offer a variety of different levels of service," Fontaine told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast.

He says complex care sites and assisted living sites are often in different locations and this means couples who have different care requirements must be separated.

New care centres needed

Creating care centres where all levels of care are addressed in one place "is probably one of the key solutions," said Fontaine.

Fontaine also proposed funds be reallocated from acute care hospitals into homes and communities.

"There are a number of seniors in $1,800 per day acute care beds when they can be living in the community," he said.

Fraser Health recently announced they are closing 80 acute care beds and moving those dollars into community care, a move Fontaine said "will increase capacity and allow for more flexibility in the system."

Solutions will take 'creativity'

"It will take political will and a lot of creativity," said Fontaine about finding long-term solutions for senior care.

In the short term, Fontaine suggested the province could temporarily purchase empty care beds from within the private system to make sure people are reunited.

The BC Care Providers Association has also created My Care Finder, a web site where people can look up available care beds in their region. 

With files from On The Coast.

To hear the full interview with Daniel Fontaine, click on the audio labelled Separated senior couples in care.