Owner Beverly Russell says project introduces new era of care for seniors
© Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass
Bay Roberts native Alice Mercer, 95, shares a laugh with RN Madonna Chaulk (left) and LPN Karen Crane (right) during a stroll down the corridor at Callingwood Downs seniors complex in Clarke's Beach recently.
A pilot project described by supporters as the introduction of a new era of care for seniors is now coming online at the Callingwood Downs seniors complex in Clarke's Beach.
Known as the "Enhanced Care in Personal Care Homes Pilot Project," it will see up to eight seniors receiving what's being called enhanced Level II care, thereby allowing them to "age in place" at homes like Callingwood longer before moving to a publicly funded nursing home, and ease pressure on an already stretched public purse in which nearly half of every tax dollar is spent on health care.
The pilot project was announced in June by Health Minister Susan Sullivan, with some $1.5 million allocated for the implementation of the project at three personal care homes — Callingwood Downs, Golden Years Estates in Gander, and Mountain View House in Meadows.
The pilot will last for 18 months, and it will then be determined whether the program can be delivered on a larger scale.
It was officially launched at Callingwood earlier this month, and prospective candidates are now being screened, said Beverly Russell, owner of Callingwood Downs and president of the Quality Living Alliance for Seniors, which is an umbrella group for the 25-plus large personal care homes in the province.
In preparation for the project, Russell hired Cupids resident Madonna Chaulk, a long-serving registered nurse with a wealth of experience in the provision of long-term care, and licensed practical nurse Karen Crane of South River, who has worked in acute and long-term care settings for 13 years.
Chaulk and Crane add to the complement of nearly 40 employees on staff at Callingwood.
"They have added a great deal of professionalism to our ability to meet the medical and long-term care needs of all of our residents," said Russell.
Russell added that adding well-trained medical staff will also reduce emergency room visits by residents, since their health needs can be better assessed at the home.
The home has also installed new bathing systems, state-of-the-art hospital beds, a nursing station and much more, said Russell.
"It's all about providing a better level of care," she noted.
Inspired by families
Russell, who has worked in the long-term care sector for more than three decades, designed the program and submitted it to the province for consideration.
She was inspired by family members who continually ask that their loved ones be able to stay longer at Callingwood Downs, and receive the higher level of care they require.
"As an alliance, we have been lobbying the provincial government to engage our industry to provide higher levels of care, both in our facilities and in seniors' homes," Russell stated last week.
As such, Russell has also designed a program that could assist seniors still living in their homes, providing services such as recreation, social interaction and nutrition.
"We are in collaboration with the government to try and give legs to this program," she said, adding she believes such programs will enhance the provincial government's 10-year long-term care strategy, called Close to Home.
She said the early feedback from residents and family members about the pilot project is very positive.
"They're all so excited about this," she said "Finally, the wheels are in motion for people to be able to live here longer.
"There are just so many benefits to this."
Sustainable health care
Callingwood Downs is a 100-bed personal care home that opened in 2001, making it one of the first "large" homes to open in the province. Since that time, private operators have invested some $300 million into some two dozen such complexes throughout the province.
These complexes have changed the face of seniors' care in the province, and Russell believes many more enhancements are possible.
She believes such a program is "very sustainable" for the provincial government, since homes like Callingwood "can stretch the tax dollar twice as far."
"We all know that about 46 per cent of the public purse goes to health care, and that's just not sustainable."
She emphasized, however, that it's not just about cost-saving.
"I'm driven by the fact that I want to provide high quality care to seniors," she explained. "This is a new era for seniors as they age and something they deserve."
She said it's often very difficult for seniors to make the transition into a personal care home, though many come to view it as their "home away from home" before long. And it's even harder still to make the transition into a nursing home, which often has the feel of an "institution," she said.
She expressed satisfaction that "the government is listening to our expertise. It's very encouraging for our industry, but especially so for our seniors and their families."
Even before the pilot project was announced, Russell said Callingwood Downs has long provided care beyond Level II, with some residents waiting for up to six month to be placed into a nursing home.
"We know we can do this," she said.