'They can raise it to whatever they want:' Seniors' group fights special care home fee increases

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'They can raise it to whatever they want:' Seniors' group fights special care home fee increases

'They can raise it to whatever they want:' Seniors' group fights special care home fee increases

About 75 people showed up at a meeting on Thursday to protest what seniors' advocates are calling a recent trend of increased fees at special care homes across the province.

According to the Department of Social Development, special care homes in New Brunswick are private businesses.

Cecile Cassista, executive director of Coalition for Seniors' and Nursing Home Residents' Rights says that should change. She'd like the provincial government to play a bigger role in protecting seniors through publicly funded special care homes.

"Then we could have proper training, proper care for our caregivers, we have a high turnover and that's very hard on our seniors."

In March, Cassista said she first heard rumblings of fee increases at Moncton residences.

"The bells started ringing."

Anne Theriault, 75, lives at Auberge Du Soleil in Dieppe. She attended the meeting because her rent increased by $75 on April 1. 

"It really made me in a very stressful situation," said Theriault.

"Really, when you live like that your quality of life is very low."

Murielle DiDomenicantonio's mother lives at the same home. The family was notified by e-mail that she will be paying more. DiDomenicantonio finds it troubling because her mother doesn't have any spare income, and if the fees continue to go up, she isn't sure where the money will come from.

"It affects us, because it affects her."

"My mother has always tried to live within her means and you know, she's not getting any more services, she still has the same room...we try not to talk about it in front of her."

But Pierre Ouellette, owner the Moncton Residence, Auberge Du Soleil and one other special care home in Greater Moncton, said the fee increase is in direct relation to his costs.

"Basically the operation costs of doing business is increasing."

Ouellette said he raised fees from $50 to $75 a month, citing rising wages, property taxes, food costs, workers compensation fees, even cleaning supplies.

He said if a resident can't pay, "we simply have a meeting with that family and make special arrangements with that family or with that family member."

Ouellette said a resident would not be made to leave the home.

And as far as Cecile Cassista's suggestion that special care homes become more regulated and publicly funded, he responded, "well, that's her opinion."

The Department of Social Development said it encourages people to talk to special care home operators about its rates before one is chosen. 

But Cassista said she's hearing from seniors from around the province and they are worried, when they should be able to enjoy their golden years they are left with no money.

'Not only that it's putting pressure on the families to either move them out or basically fund them with more money and so it's a lot of anxiety for our seniors and it shouldn't be happening."