'I am at my wit's end': Manitoba man says limited home-care hours too restrictive
Alex Lytwyn is calling for changes after a decade-long battle to get home-care hours increased
A Manitoba man living with cerebral palsy is calling for changes to the province's Vulnerable Person's and Home Care acts to end the suffering he says he endures while he tries to get more home-care hours.
Alex Lytwyn, 31, has lived with cerebral palsy — a disorder that affects body movement and muscle co-ordination — his entire life, and has a speech impediment. He is in a wheelchair and has limited use of his right hand. He says he needs a second set of hands helping him from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed.
"I am at my wit's end," Lytwyn said at his home in Winnipegosis, Man., a small town about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg on the shores of Lake Winnipegosis.
Lytwyn says his family helps when they can, but if they can't he is sometimes stuck in bed for 10 hours at a time or more. He feels his physical and mental conditions have worsened as a result of a lack of care.
"My safety is at risk," said Lytwyn, a freelance writer who lives in a spacious, wheelchair-friendly apartment — with Toronto Maple Leafs memorabilia in nearly every corner — in a building that used to house a grocery store.
He recalls having the flu and vomiting in bed and starting to choke. Another time, he says, he left his apartment in the dead of winter after hearing a noise outside. His wheelchair became stuck, and he suffered severe frostbite before help arrived.
Doesn't qualify for full-time care
Lytwyn says he doesn't qualify for full-time care under the Vulnerable Persons Act because he doesn't have a mental disability. He is also maxed out on help he can receive according to regulations set out in the Home Care Act, which says his next step would be moving into a personal-care home.
His mother, Sherry Lytwyn, says not having access to home care has meant her son has to plan every minute of his day.
He'll do things like sacrifice eating supper.- Sherry Lytwyn , mother of Alex Lytwyn
"It breaks my heart," she said. "Every day it breaks my heart. I go to bed every night and I know that he's alone and I can't do anything about it and I don't have a million dollars to hire [private] care.
"He's suffering because of that. It's kind of been a plateau for a while. His needs are increasing."
Sherry says Alex is very determined and volunteers at community events and activities whenever possible.
Sherry says it's been a long, frustrating battle dealing with so many different government departments and representatives, and the family hasn't been able to get any answers.
"Everyone seems to understand and have empathy," she said. "But there's no one that we've talked to yet that can make change."
Calling on province to make changes
"If he had more hours … he could live," Sherry added. "He could get up in the morning, the same as you or I, plan his day, know he is not going to worry about putting his coat on or eating or getting somewhere on time … he's got a lot to offer his community and he really wants to do that."
She's calling on the province to make changes, including seeing the word "mental" removed from the description of the Vulerable Persons Act and changes made to home-care system to make it more patient-centred.
"My world has started to get dark and I'm not sure where else to turn," he said. "I do my best to be upbeat and positive but with each passing hour … it's really hard."
Lytwyn wants a one-on-one meeting with Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Family Servies Minister Scott Fielding so he can tell his story and describe his struggles first-hand.
"On paper it's one thing, but if I can sit down and explain to them why I need this care maybe they would understand," he said.
"I've done everything I can do. All I need is a little bit of help to give back to my town and society."
When asked for comment, the Manitoba government said there are no plans to change the Vulnerable Persons Act.
"There is no intention to expand the application of the Act to those who do not have significantly impaired intellectual functioning," a spokesperson said via email.
More from CBC Manitoba: