Recently, Wildrose MLAs questioned the government on the AHS divorce-by-nursing-home policy in the Alberta Legislature. This is the policy that forcibly separates couples who have been married for decades by placing them in long-term care centres far away from each other for the convenience of administrators. The rules currently allow AHS to transfer long-term care residents up to 100 kilometres from their homes and families. If a married couple is forced to separate because of AHS rules, it could see one partner go one way and another in the complete opposite direction, effectively placing 200 km between partners who have loved and supported each other through decades of marriage.
Take for example the case of a couple in the Crowsnest Pass. They have been married for 63 years, but now face health challenges. The 90-year-old husband has Parkinson’s, but he’s able to get along well. His wife has terminal cancer and is very ill. Their doctor has been able to keep them together in community support beds in the local long-term care facility for the last while so they can be together. But AHS rules say the husband has to be in a lodge and must move. That means he’ll have to pay for an expensive cab ride to see his wife, plus additional charges for his meals!
In another divorce-by-nursing-home case, a couple of 71 years from Red Deer was forced to separate. The wife is in extended care, but the husband is on the waiting list and remains in expensive private care. The separation is painful for both, and the stress on the husband of the trip back and forth is difficult for both him and his caregivers. It’s hard to think of a more cruel and inhumane policy than forcing lifelong partners to separate when they are most vulnerable.
The worst part is the 100-km policy was never intended to be permanent. It was brought in during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic as a stop-gap measure to weather the crisis. It was supposed to be scrapped. But it has become permanent policy. The PC government continues to have no exit strategy to get rid of it. The Minister of Health and the PC government, have not taken the issue seriously, leaving many seniors living this dreadful nightmare situation of divorce-by-nursing-home.
This is just another example of how the centralization of the AHS superboard is failing Albertans. Seniors built this province, they deserve better than being asked in their final years to be separated from their loved ones. The Wildrose Official Opposition believes in allowing seniors to stay together. This government needs to have a policy that will do everything possible to allow senior couples to enter care together and we won’t stop raising this issue until this government corrects this appalling situation.