Calgary

Underfunded facility raises concerns for care of Indigenous elders, disabled

The Siksika Elders Lodge, which houses First Nation elders and people with disabilities, is seeking funds and raising concern over the lack of funding.

Band members can access funding, programs to receive care on reserve

Kory Duck Chief is the quality assurance officer for Siksika Health Services. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The Siksika Elders Lodge has seen better days.

Although the assisted care facility is in the process of getting a fire suppression system installed, the building no longer meets the standard requirements to serve community members efficiently with adequate equipment and accessible rooms.

The accredited care centre, located on the Siksika Nation, about 100 kilometres east of Calgary, is home to 16 band members, a mix of seniors and people with low level of care disabilities. 

Kory Duck Chief is the lodge's team leader and the Siksika health quality assurance officer.

The federal government funds the continuing care facility, but it is not enough for a new building or for more qualified staff.

"The funding we do receive basically just helps us Band-Aid the solution and it's not efficient enough," said Duck Chief.

Siksika Elders Lodge houses Siksika elders and people with disabilities but needs funding for maintenance and staff. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The community will eventually need a new assisted living facility, and Duck Chief says it comes down to money.

"We have applications coming in here. Unfortunately, we are only able to handle a certain level of care," the team leader said.

The program refers applicants to off-reserve, assisted living programs and resources, but nation members don't want to leave the community, Duck Chief said.

The Siksika Elders Lodge, which houses First Nation elders and people with disabilities, is seeking funds and raising concern over the lack of funding.

"There is a lack of funding simply for the continuing care aspect," he said. "I don't think that the population is taken into consideration."

Funding and programs available

Mindy Wasacase's son Denver Backfat was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.

Now 16, Backfat is not eligible to live at the assisted living facility because he requires a high level of care. He receives one-on-one care at home with two home-care providers, five days a week.

Wasacase said she had to find funding and support off-reserve for her son to get the assistance at home. She found it through the Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) program in Calgary.

Mindy Wasacase found assistance through the Family Support for Children with Disabilities program in Calgary to care for her son Denver Backfat at home. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

"They work with children with disabilities," she said. "Right now, I have a FSCD worker, I sign a contract with them to get the funding in place to keep things going for my son."

The program provides support to families to help access services and funding.

Wasacase said her son ended up in the hospital in the past and that's how she found out about the support service, including advocacy from Inclusion Alberta.

The mother encourages community members seek outside support and funding without having to live off-reserve.

"I know of others, but I don't know if they took the steps to get things in place or even hear of anything that is available outside the walls of the reserve," said Wasacase.

Bruce Uditsky is the chief executive officer for Inclusion Alberta, which is a family advocacy organization for children and adults with disabilities.

Bruce Uditsky of Inclusion Alberta says his agency will help advocate on behalf of people caring for disabled family members. (CBC)

"We have engaged with a number of different First Nation communities over the past 20 years and we're trying to enable First Nations to have access to the kinds of supports that are available," Uditsky said.

The CEO said the lack of access to resources is not so much a funding issue because it is available for those with disabilities on reserves. It's people who do not know how to access it or have the resources to navigate.

Inclusion Alberta is a wide open program seeking to engage First Nations families with loved ones with disabilities. Inclusion Alberta will help advocate on their behalf for funding for supports and services.

"When we make services technically available, it doesn't actually mean we have addressed the history of oppression and alienation," Uditsky said. "And in fact we supported First Nations to have resource capacity to actually utilize those resources."

The funding is not as equitable as the rest of Canada, which makes us very creative in regards to meeting the shortfalls.- Frances Wolfleg , Siksika Health Corporation

Siksika Nation Coun. Frances Wolfleg is also the chairman for Siksika Health Corporation.

The Siksika leader wants the lack of funding addressed by the federal government, so elders and those with disabilities don't need to leave their community.

"The funding is not as equitable as the rest of Canada, which makes us very creative in regards to meeting the shortfalls," Wolfleg said.

Siksika Nation Coun. Frances Wolfleg says the lack of funding needs to be addressed by the government for First Nations elders and people with disabilities. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The Siksika leader said elders and people with disabilities need to be taken care of just like any others in Canada and the leadership tries to provide that equitable service out of the funding the nation receives from the Canadian government.

"It can be quite challenging and creative on our end," Wolfleg said.

The management and health committee for the Siksika Elders Lodge wants to be able to find the money for more qualified staff and equipment — with the goal of building a new facility in the future to better serve their community with all levels of care.

Corrections

  • The original version of this story indicated that the fire suppression system had already been installed. That is not the case. Also, Kory Duck Chief is not a member of the health committee.
    Apr 11, 2019 2:41 PM MT

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