After more than a year, Fort Resolution elder still waiting for wheelchair ramp

Terri Beaulieu, 72, has diabetes and is bound to a wheelchair. She's been waiting for a ramp for her home for at least a year and a half. And her daughter says now, Terri is getting one of her feet amputated, a major complication from her diabetes.

Terri Beaulieu only leaves house 3 times a week for dialysis appointments

Dawna Beaulieu, top, left her job to become a full-time caregiver for her mother Terri Beaulieu, below. The 72-year-old suffers from diabetes and is wheelchair bound. (Submitted by Dawna Beaulieu)

Dawna Beaulieu carries her mother Terri Beaulieu, 72, down the steep front staircase of their Fort Resolution home three times a week — so her mom can get dialysis treatments in Hay River, N.W.T.  

These are the only times Terri leaves the house. The elder, who has diabetes and is bound to a wheelchair, has been waiting for a ramp for her home for at least a year and a half.

"She can't even go into the local stores here or anywhere," Dawna told the CBC. "She can't even visit her own children or grandchildren." 

Terri is also getting one of her feet amputated, Dawna said, a major complication from her diabetes. CBC tried to call Terri for an interview, but she was in hospital awaiting a procedure.

Dawna's father Leonard Beaulieu, 73, also has diabetes and suffers from long-term injuries after being run over 15 years ago. He can still walk, but a wheelchair ramp would make it much easier for him to come in and out of the family home. 

Terri, left, sits with her husband Leonard Beaulieu. (Submitted by Dawna Beaulieu)

Dawna left her job last December to take care of her parents full-time. She thought she was going to be gone for a few days, but has not been able to go back. 

Dawna said a wheelchair ramp would change everything. 

"It would change things dramatically, so I could even push [Terri] outside to get fresh air," Dawna said.

First Nation brought attention to case in 2018

In a letter dated July 2018 and reviewed by CBC News, the Deninu Kue First Nation brought the Beaulieu's case to the attention of Glen Abernethy, the former minister responsible for seniors.  

"We highly urge that [Terri's] residence be outfitted with a chair or seat lift so that she can access her house without risk of harm or injury," the letter reads. 

Dawna Beaulieu and her parents live in this home in Fort Resolution. Terri is carried down this steep flight of stairs three times a week so she can get to her dialysis appointments in Hay River. (Submitted by Dawna Beaulieu)

The NWT Housing Corporation provides a loan forgiveness program of up to $100,000 for elders with land tenure and home insurance who want to make their homes more accessible. 

Dawna said that in December, the local housing authority told her they would put in a wheelchair ramp, but never gave her a timeline for when it would be done.

The NWT Housing Corporation speaks for the local housing authority.

In a statement, the corporation declined to comment on particular cases but stressed that wheelchair ramps could qualify for a loan under this program. 

Lack of assistance 'disturbing': MLA

Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, is bringing attention to the Beaulieu family's case. He said the family is one example of how those with disabilities have difficulties getting support to make their homes more accessible. 

"What was … disturbing was the lack of a department to take the reins and help," Norn told the legislature in a statement about the Beaulieu's case last week. "There's a lot of back and forth and denial, which really saddened me." 

Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, is working with the Beaulieu family and the territorial government to find a permanent solution for elders who need to make their homes more accessible. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Norn said he has heard concerns from other constituents in his riding that they are having issues getting accessibility support in their homes. 

"They feel like they're not being heard, and that concerns me," Norn said. 

Norn said he has been speaking with territorial ministers to find a long-term solution for elders looking for accessible housing repairs. He will also be asking the government more questions in the legislature in the next sitting, which starts in a couple of weeks. 

The territorial government's mandate, released earlier this week, promises to "address home repair barriers" for low-income seniors and disabled people by bringing about a series of changes to housing policies in 2021.