MS patient, 41, stuck in Bedford seniors home

A Nova Scotia woman with multiple sclerosis says she shouldn't have to live in a nursing home to get the care she needs.

Melanie Gaunt, 41, has had MS for ten years. She's needed round-the-clock care for the last few years and had to move into a Bedford seniors home to get it.

"It wasn't visible for a few years, then I started to get worse in 2004/2005 and I slowly had to get used to needing help," she said.

Gaunt gets along with the other residents, but some are more than twice her age. They have little in common and she finds herself connecting more with staff than the people she lives with.

"I feel isolated from people my age. It's very tough to try to have a normal life. It's hard enough having an illness, but having a bad day when you're in a nursing home surrounded by people twice your age — that can be difficult," she explained.

"The activities, obviously, are designed for the major population, which is on average 40 years older than me. It makes it difficult."

That leads to an increase in isolation and she struggles to deal with residents who have dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"If you've got say someone in your house that cries all the time, it's not their fault, but 24 hours a day? I'm not a saint. My patience will run out," she said.

Provincial figures show about seven per cent of people in nursing homes are under the age of 65. The 450 people have conditions like MS, brain injuries and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Gaunt said people like her should live in smaller homes with people in their age group and situation. "I would love that. You immediately have a bond when you find out someone has the same illness as you. Also, you want people who know what MS is."

Gaunt has little hope to see the situation change in her lifetime, but she wants to improve it for the next generation.

"It's discouraging in the sense that we are still going to have to live in a place that's not designed for us and our needs. The fact that we can push hard enough that they can eventually realize that they need to do something and do something fast is great," she said.

"Coming up with a strategy is good, but [with] the government, that could be years. It could be the next generation. It's not necessarily us who are going to live it."

Dave Wilson, the minister of health, said the situation is not ideal. He said the government has been pouring more money into homecare services and is reviewing options for long-term care facilities.

"We can always improve on it, no question, and I think what we're trying to do now is ensure that individuals have options," he said.

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