Ottawa man with brain injury moved to long-term care home

An Ottawa man who was facing an indeterminate hospital stay after suffering a brain injury has been moved to a long-term care home as his family waits for a spot to open up in a specialized facility.

Shawn Hill was given a bed at the Extendicare West End Villa, a home in west Ottawa, last month.

The 44-year-old has been unable to care for himself after he fractured his skull, likely in a fall, while on his way home from a bachelor party in August 2018.

While he's recovered physically from what was initially a life-threatening injury, Hill still suffers from significant confusion and has difficulty forming new memories.

Prior to being moved to the care home, Hill had been sharing a room in a secure ward at the Ottawa Hospital's General campus with three seniors.

It was an arrangement that concerned his family: they worried the lack of mental and physical stimulation could cause the former chef and musician to decline cognitively even further.

"I think it's been better," said Melissa Acheson, Hill's partner, as they sat together with their son, Levi, in the home's common area.

"He has a lot more opportunity here for doing certain activities, and the staff here is just wonderful and kind and caring. They do everything they can to make sure Shawn is active."

Trevor Pritchard/CBC

'Still not acceptable'

Acheson said Hill gets to ride an exercise bike every morning, and takes part in trivia nights and other group activities with the residents.

The villa is also closer to where Hill and Acheson lived before the accident, which allows him to come home and play video games Levi more often.

There are drawbacks, Acheson said — most notably, the fact Hill's room is on the facility's dementia ward, where his fellow residents are roughly twice his age.

While this is a step up from the hospital, it's still not acceptable. - Melissa Acheson

"It would be my greatest wish for him to be in a place where he was more with peers and in a more suitable environment," Acheson said.

That's why the family is still holding out hope a spot for Hill will open up in of the province's residential facilities for people with brain injuries, even though they've been told he's facing a wait of a decade or more.

The Ontario Brain Injury Association has said all of those facilities are full due to the high demand for residential, round-the-clock care.

"It still just baffles me that this is his life and this is what the option is. Because to me, it's still just completely unacceptable and inappropriate," Acheson said.

"He needs proper housing where he can have the best quality of life possible. And while this is a step up from the hospital, it's still not acceptable."

In October, the province said it had recently announced $155 million toward improving home and community care, with $15 million funding "community-based services" including programs for people with brain injuries.