'I think my mom will die waiting in a hospital': Budget doesn't do enough for long-term care, family says

The Liberals rolled out their budget this week promising big spending on daycare, dental care, and home care. But some families are asking if it will make a difference to patients waiting for long-term care spaces now.

Despite a ‘care-focused’ provincial budget, families feel hopeless about lack of long-term care spaces

Anna Hoar lived with her husband in a Peterborough retirement home before his death. (Submitted)

In a hospital room in rural Whitby, Ont., Anna Hoar feels like she's in a movie. The day before, she thought the woman beside her was a dummy planted by hospital staff.

The 89-year-old lives with Lewy body dementia. Every day is a new reality and she's been stuck living them out in a hospital bed in Lakeridge Health Oshawa since Feb 1.

Anna Hoar may have a five-year wait ahead of her for spot in a long-term care facility. (Submitted)

She was discharged two weeks after being hospitalized for a fall but had to stay at Lakeridge because there was no public long-term care space available for her.

"With her needs, we couldn't take her in," her daughter Mary Anne Follest told CBC Toronto. "There is no way I could look after her," said Follest, who is also the primary caregiver for her husband, who has cancer.

The family tried private care facilities, but after being quoted between $5,000 and $6,000 per month, they decided that was an avenue they couldn't afford.

Estimated wait time is 5 years

On Wednesday, the tide turned for Hoar and her family — at least a little bit.

Follest received a call from Lakeridge saying her mother was transferred to their advanced care unit in Whitby and was put on the long-term care wait list. Hoar was 17th in line for the facility with the shortest list.

"I thought, 'Okay this will be good, she will be here for a few days and then she'll move to a long -term care facilty,'" Follest recalled.

Anna Hoar with her husband of 64 years. (Submitted)

But their care worker quickly corrected that assumption.

Follest said she was informed that the person who is first on the list has been waiting for 570 days so basically Hoar had to wait for about 5 years.

"I think my mom will die waiting in hospital," Follest admitted in an interview on Wednesday.

Seniors 'just a forgotten sector,' daughter says

Premier Kathleen Wynne's pre-election budget includes billions in funding for seniors, including a $750 yearly benefit for those 75 and over who still live at home. The Healthy Home Program will cost $1 billion over three years. Another $650 million will go toward boosting the number of visits by caregivers to clients' homes.

For seniors in long-term care facilities, the Liberals plan to spend $300 million over three years to hire a registered nurse in every site in Ontario and provide an average of four hours of personal daily care for each resident by 2022.

And in November of last year, the Liberal government promised 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2022 and 30,000 over the next decade.

But it's already too late for some families. Follest's friend and neighbour, Leslee Urquhart, said her mom died while waiting in hospital for a space.

"You know these are our seniors and they are the ones that built the backbone of our province and it feels like they're just a forgotten sector," Urquhart said.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network, says there are ways to navigate the system that many may not know about.

He argues that the government approach to push home care is a better option for the taxpayer's wallet as long-term care spaces are much more costly. But Sinha says there are ways to navigate the system to get seniors the long-term care they need.

"If you're in a situation where home might not be an option, you can really work together with the hospital, the social worker and the team to say ... 'What would we need to make home or other options available?" he explained, citing resources like respite home care and social assistance programs.