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Families left in the lurch as Merritt seniors home gives up 20 long-term care beds

·3 min read
The Florentine Care Home offers assisted living and complex care to residents in the 77 suite private care facility in Merritt, B.C.  (Google Maps - image credit)
The Florentine Care Home offers assisted living and complex care to residents in the 77 suite private care facility in Merritt, B.C. (Google Maps - image credit)

The Florentine seniors home in Merritt is relinquishing its licence to provide complex care to 20 long-term residents who will have to find a new place to live.

The families of residents, like Sandra Pearsons' 98-year-old mother Erma Lines, say the closure has left them with few alternatives for the level of care these seniors need.

"It feels inhumane to have these people at that age and in their different states of health and mental health to have to relocate. It's pretty devastating," Pearsons told CBC Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

She says her mother has come to rely on the community of residents and staff at the Florentine and worries about the impact on her overall health.

"If you take her out of her environment, all of a sudden you see that confusion and what's going on," said Pearsons. "I know from experience that taking her out of her home and moving her somewhere else is going to probably really exacerbate her dementia, I would think, and maybe even her health."

Lines' health has already suffered from the isolation brought on by visiting restrictions in care homes during the pandemic.

Home struggled during pandemic

The Florentine has faced a number of challenges in the past year.

In March, Interior Health appointed a public administrator to oversee the operations of the 20 long-term care beds following inspections at the site over a period of several months.

The health authority says in the wake of the owner giving up its licence for complex care, it has established a transition team and is meeting with families to discuss options.

"Our administrator and team are now working with residents and their families to ensure a smooth transition, and are providing continued support at each step," it said in a statement.

The Florentine's president says staffing has been difficult at the facility since Greyhound cancelled bus routes in the region.

"It was a method of getting staff from the Fraser Valley into Merritt," explained Frank Rizzardo. "Merritt is too small, I think, to supply the needed continued level of trained and professional people."

Rizzardo believes that in spite of the challenges, they continued to provide a high level of care to their less independent residents.

"And that isn't necessarily being recognized by licensing, but that's what it is."

The privately-owned facility will continue to operate 53 assisted living suites for seniors who are more independent and will convert the 20 complex care beds into similar independent living suites.

"Our original concept of the congregate care aging places is going to be lost, which is, I guess, the biggest disappointment," said Rizzardo.

Meanwhile, the 20 displaced seniors will be moved to other facilities over the next 12 months. There is only one other facility in Merritt able to provide the level of care needed by seniors like Erma Lines, the publicly-funded Gillis House.

Pearsons says Gillis House has a long waiting list and she worries her mother will be relocated to another region which will mean fewer visits from family.

"If I have to travel to another community that's not going to happen at all as regularly as I'm doing now, and I can't keep tabs on her and how she's doing," she said. "That she wouldn't have that family interaction is just not acceptable."

She's been told her mother could have to move twice if she ends up in an interim facility.

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