The family of an 82-year-old Cape Breton woman with dementia is frustrated and heartbroken that she's been sent to a long-term care facility 400 kilometres away from relatives and friends.

April Moore has been caring for her mother, Blanche Abbott, since she was diagnosed with dementia five years ago. For years, Moore travelled from her home in Port Hawkesbury to her mother's home in Sydney to provide her with care.

In May, Moore moved in with her mother when her condition worsened. Several months later, her mother threatened to hurt herself and Moore made the painful decision to put her in a long-term care facility.

"I'm very frustrated. I've put a lot of time and effort to keep my mother safe," Moore told CBC News.

There was no available space in Abbott's area and instead of getting an emergency placement in Sydney — or anywhere in Cape Breton — the 82-year-old was sent to Amherst.

Moore said her mother is getting excellent care at the Gables Lodge in Amherst. The staff are wonderful and give the family regular updates, she said.

The problem is, Abbott is a long way from family and friends and Moore is being told it will be more than two years before she can return to Sydney.

"My mother is six hours from having any family or friends come to visit," Moore said Wednesday. "She has dementia and she needs family and friends around to visit her."

Aging population

Things came to a head last weekend when Abbott was sent to hospital with heart problems. Moore and her husband had to wait a day for bad weather to clear before they could make the trip from Sydney to Amherst.

Nova Scotia's minister of health said he can't speak about this specific case, but said the province will soon begin to develop a dementia strategy.

Leo Glavine said it's "very unfortunate" when a family is broken up and the department wants people to be cared for in their own communities.

"It's always the hope and plan of the ministry and the department to have that person returned to their community or as close to their home as possible," he said.

"I just hope this family are able to have their loved one back in the community as quickly as possible. Sometimes there are movements that are unexpected and hopefully that's the case here."

Glavine said the province will also launch a series of initiatives around home care early next year, which may take some of the strain off long-term care and residential placement facilities.

"I believe if we can do that, then we may be able to handle the emergencies more," Glavine said.

Glavine said there are significant advances in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's. He said provincial health ministers are due to meet on the topic in the new year.