Seniors in long-term care shouldn't be torn away from each other, Waterloo MPP's bill says

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife has introduced a private member's bill to keep older couples together when one or both need to go into a long-term care facility.

Lack of long-term care beds making hallway healthcare worse, says Fife

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife has introduced a private member's bill to keep seniors together when one or both need to enter a long-term care facility. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife says she's heard too many stories of older couples in Waterloo region and across the province who are torn apart when one or both need to go into a long-term care facility.

It's why the NDP MPP has introduced a private member's bill called Till Death Do Us Part. It would amend the Long-Term Care Homes Act and the resident's bill of rights to keep couples together.

It also calls on the provincial government to step-up funding for new long-term care beds.

Fife says she fought for a long time to have Patricia and Don Deighton placed in the same home. The couple had been married 64 years and were separated in August 2017 when Patricia needed to go into a long-term care facility.

"To watch the entire family go through the anguish of seeing their parents, who spent every day together and their lives, not being able to spend time together, there is an emotional cost but there's also a cost to the health care system," Fife said. 

"Long-term care is part of the holistic crisis that we have right now in around hallway medicine in our hospitals."

Fife says to have a patient in a hospital bed costs $842 a day. A long-term bed costs $126 a day.

"There's actually a financial and economic imperative for us to invest in long-term care options so that seniors can live their lives in dignity," she said.

Fife says care campuses could help. The campuses would bring together long-term care assisted living, dementia units and retirement homes in the same facility, and allow flexibility to respond to changing needs of the people staying there.

Minister to closely review bill

Merrilee Fullerton is Ontario's minister of long-term care. In a statement, she says she will closely review the bill Fife has proposed "to ensure we understand the impacts it may have, and how we could responsibly integrate these ideas."

"Our priority remains building a long-term care system that prioritizes the happiness and dignity of residents, across Ontario," Fullerton added.

Fullerton says she would like to see a system where couples who have spent their lives together can stay together.

"It's clear that this is an important issue for many Ontario families, and I am committed to examining how we can keep loved-ones together," she said.

Fullerton also noted the province is investing $1.75 billion to create 15,000 new long-term care beds and redevelop 15,000 existing, older beds over the next five years.

Fife says she's also spoken with Fullerton and Fife is hopeful that when the bill goes for second reading on Dec. 12, it will pass and go into committee.

"I hope that it has the support of the government because let's be honest, this should not be partisan at all," Fife said.


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