78-year-old caregiver gets no breaks after respite service cut

·2 min read
Ken Ramsay is doing a 'great job' as a primary caregiver to his wife Vivian, says the couple's daughter Kay Doherty. (Submitted by Kay Doherty - image credit)
Ken Ramsay is doing a 'great job' as a primary caregiver to his wife Vivian, says the couple's daughter Kay Doherty. (Submitted by Kay Doherty - image credit)

Staffing shortages have led Health P.E.I. to cut respite care services across Prince Edward Island, leaving some families struggling to look after their loved ones.

It's a concern for Kay Doherty. Her 78-year-old father, Ken Ramsay, is the primary caregiver for her mother Vivian, who has been diagnosed with dementia.

"He's like my hero, he's doing a great job," Doherty said.

For the last several months, Vivian was spending one week a month at a long-term care facility in Tyne Valley, giving Ken a break from being a full-time caregiver at their home in Stanley Bridge.

A lot of time the primary caregivers are the ones who end up in the hospital from no break and too much stress. — Kay Doherty

The care was exceptional, the family said. But late last month they heard their access to respite services was ending because of staff shortages.

Doherty said the family now has nowhere to turn.

She said her father is committed to keeping Vivian home as long as possible, which is why respite care was so vital.

"A lot of time the primary caregivers are the ones who end up in the hospital from no break and too much stress and then the person with dementia ends up in a home. I only have one mom and dad and I don't want to see that happen."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Health P.E.I. said it has no choice. Last week, only two of the Island's 10 long-term care facilities were able to provide respite care services.

Staffing challenges

Calvin Joudrie, Health P.E.I.'s long-term care director, said the province is doing everything it can to restore respite service as soon as possible.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"We use the same staff that provides care to our long-term care residents to provide the services to our respite residents, and so when staffing is challenged the first thing that we have to do is ensure that the care for existing residents is not interrupted."

Joudrie couldn't say when respite services might be fully restored.

Doherty hopes it's soon.

"If she goes into a rapid decline, the only place for people right now is the emergency room. The emergency room is no place for a dementia patient," she said.

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