New Vancouver Island long-term care facility to include separate unit for people under 65

A new long-term care facility coming to the West Shore of Greater Victoria will include a wing specifically dedicated to residents under 65.  (Jaison Empson/CBC - image credit)
A new long-term care facility coming to the West Shore of Greater Victoria will include a wing specifically dedicated to residents under 65. (Jaison Empson/CBC - image credit)

A new 306-bed long-term care complex coming to Greater Victoria's West Shore will not only feature a bistro, therapy centre and hospice but a specialized unit for adults under 65.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says it comes as the level of demand grows for long-term care services due to an increasing population. He says having a dedicated unit for younger adults "makes a lot of sense." 

"There are [younger] people … for a variety of reasons who need long-term care, including for mental health and substance use issues," said Dix on CBC Radio's On The Island on Tuesday, adding they may also need care due to various physical and mental challenges that require 24/7 support.

The City of Colwood says the three-story facility will be located near the corner of Metchosin Road and Latoria Boulevard, with construction to begin in 2025 and to be completed in 2027. According to Island Health, the complex will offer "safe and compassionate care" that will allow residents "to age with dignity in a supportive and home-like environment."

Dix told CBC there are currently just over 800 publicly owned and operated long-term care beds on Vancouver Island, so the additional 306 beds will make an impact. He said around 30 of those new beds will be designated for people under 65.

Increase in care demand for younger adults

Surveys by the B.C. seniors advocate report that while the average age of care-home residents is 84, about six per cent of long-term care residents in B.C. are under the age of 65, up from five per cent in 2018.

In Atlantic Canada, a 2020 study of long-term care residents discusses how there's an "increasing number of younger adults with disabilities" becoming residents and suggests those running facilities involve more younger people in decision-making in order to "meet the unique health-related needs of younger residents."

Photo courtesy of the City of Colwood.
Photo courtesy of the City of Colwood.

A recent academic paper by UBC researcher Michelle Hewitt says people in their 30s and 40s with disabilities like multiple sclerosis may face decisions on long-term care.

"Those who enter [the] facilities often never leave and are forced to live in a medicalized environment designed for people twice their age," the paper says, adding that advocating for change can be challenging for a disabled person who is "forced to live in a time that is out of step with their needs and desires."

It says advocating for age-appropriate care has been a priority for organizations like the MS Society of Canada since around 2006.

Dix spoke to the challenge of younger long-term care residents balancing around-the-clock support while being an active part of their community.

"(So) saving a unit that's adjusted to them and their circumstances is important," he said.

The City of Colwood says the facility will be built on a two-hectare plot of land recently acquired by the Capital Regional Hospital District (CRHD), and Island Health will lease, build, and operate the complex.

It says the project's total cost is $224 million, with the province covering $157 million of it and the CRHD covering the remaining $67 million.