44 long-term care beds to switch to respite care

Nova Scotia's government is going to switch a handful of nursing home beds to respite care beds for seniors who are looked after at home.

Dave Wilson, the Minister of Health and Wellness, announced Wednesday that eight nursing homes around the province will be switching a total of 44 beds to provide respite care.

The beds will be switched as they become available, he said.

The respite beds are available to seniors who receive a high level of care at home. Seniors can move into them for up to 60 days a year at a cost of $33 a day, giving their caregivers a break.

The nursing home beds that will be converted to respite beds are in Yarmouth, Middleton, Brookfield, Springhill, New Glasgow, Sydney and two Halifax locations.

Wilson also announced an expansion to the Caregiver Benefit Program, which will allow an estimated 100 more people to access a $400 per month allowance.

The allowance is available to low-income people — who have been assessed by the province — who are receiving 20 or more hours of care in their homes each week from an otherwise unpaid caregiver.

"Today we are increasing the low-income threshold from $18,785 to $22,000," Wilson told visitors at an adult day center in Halifax.

"About 100 more caregivers will be able to apply and receive the funding of this program."

Approximately 10,000 people around the province receive some form of home support so they can stay in their own house. Of those people, 9,200 of them also rely on unpaid caregivers to look after them.

Cathy White, who cares for her husband at home, said she welcomes the increase in financial assistance for low-income caregivers but it won't help her family because their income is more than the $22,000 cut off.

"We've been married for 49 years and I've been his full-time caregiver now for four and a half years," said White, whose husband has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"Financially, it's quite a burden. Everything we've worked for all our lives is going on his health care. Tony has to have oxygen 24/7, we have to pay for that out of our pockets."

More than 2,200 Nova Scotians are waiting for a bed in a nursing home.

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