BEPPLE – Kamloops needs another, more central, long-term care home

Ponderosa Lodge (Image: UBC)

IT MAY BE FORGOTTEN by many that in 2020 the B.C. provincial government announced an expansion of almost 500 more extended care beds across the province.  Of these, 100 beds were promised for Kamloops.

Interior Health Authority put out a request for proposals (RFP) for building a new 100-bed facility in Kamloops.  That RFP closed last month. The political promise is a step closer to reality.  But there are still many unanswered questions.

As much as I support more much-needed extended care beds in Kamloops, a key question is where will the new facility be built?

Or more correctly, where shouldn’t a new extended care facility be built?

In recent years, all of the new facilities have been at the far reaches of Kamloops.  Kamloops Senior Village is in Aberdeen.  Gemstone, and Ridgeview are in Brocklehurst, not far from Overlander Extended Care.  The Hamlets, in Westsyde, is 14 km from the center of the city.

The only facilities in the center of Kamloops are the smallest and oldest: Ponderosa in downtown Kamloops and Pine Grove just over the bridge in the North Shore.

Aside from Ponderosa and Pinegrove, Kamloops’ extended care facilities are located for active, able-bodied, mobile people. They are built for people who can easily get around.  But that is not who extended care facilities serve.

The average age of a resident in extended care is 85 years old.  Which means that it’s more than likely if their spouse is still alive, they will be about the same age. It’s just as likely that children of those in extended care will be in their 60s or 70s.

If one spouse is in care, and the other isn’t, they are still spouses.

I think of friends of mine.  He had dementia.  She cared for him.  After years of looking after her partner in their house, he became a resident of one of these far-flung care facilities.  She still cared for him every day.   But now, every day, because she didn’t drive, she had to spend hours riding the bus to go to see him.  Taking the bus, every day, in her 80s.

With Covid, spouses have been kept apart.  We have all seen how difficult these separations have been. Nurses, care aides and others are no substitute for loved ones.

Where we shouldn’t build the next 100-bed facility is at the periphery of Kamloops.  Where we need the next extended care home is in the center of the city. Putting extended care homes at the outer reaches of Kamloops is too large of a burden for residents, their spouses and other loved ones who visit them.

Extended care is the last home for many of our most frail and elderly.  It may not be the place most of us want to have to live out our final days, but if we do end up there, then having loved ones be able to visit easily should be a top priority.

I know.  When my grandmother needed to move into extended care, she was assigned to a temporary room in Ponderosa at the center of Kamloops, waiting for assignment to one of the other facilities.  Our family had to choose which facility she would be moved to from Ponderosa.

We deliberately choose the facility with the longest waiting list.  As old and outdated Ponderosa is, its location in the center of the Kamloops city, meant that we could all visit her frequently.  Our strategy worked.  The waitlist was so long that she passed away at Ponderosa, enjoying ongoing visits from us.

Building an extended care facility in Kamloops must meet the needs of its residents and their families.  Let’s tell Interior Health Authority that an easily accessible, central location in Kamloops must be a top priority.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

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7 Comments on BEPPLE – Kamloops needs another, more central, long-term care home

  1. I agree strongly that the facility be a government care facility. This is the way we need to go for all future needs.

  2. Agreed, hats off to the Provincial Government for keeping their campaign promise of a 100 additional extended care beds for Kamloops. Also I’m in agreement with Ms. Bepple’s assertion the beds should be in the downtown area.

    What seems to get lost is extended care isn’t just about putting heads on pillows. What is required is a holistic view of users and those who support them. That support can be professional (e.g. medical) or family and friends.

    Maybe it is to early in the process but hopefully at some point there will be time for public input.

  3. R Marcus Lowe // February 10, 2021 at 7:57 PM // Reply

    Dear Nancy

    If the goal is truly care for the elders, not political solutions, I believe it can be shown that small and modular care units are better. This is what was decided in Finland when they had to decide how to care for their elders. If improvements can be made, it would be wise to consider them before construction begins.

    Respectfully Submitted, Marcus from Ashcroft

  4. Tracey Pointer // February 10, 2021 at 7:11 PM // Reply

    I also agree with you Nancy. My husband with dementia is at Ponderosa permanently and although the building is old, I can’t say enough good things about the staff and management of the facility. I also love that it is a 5 minute walk from where I live downtown. Pre COVID, I used to be able to visit whenever I wished and if he was sleeping or not co-operating, I would just come back later.

  5. How can you argue where the best location is for an extended care facility? The ease or the relative difficulty to reach it really depends only in relation to where the relative resides. As long as it is not in the boonies it will ok. Perhaps it is worth reminding the “authorities” the public transit system needs to be definitely considered. It should be on or very near a high-frequency line and the bus stops should be designed and maintained for all kind of weather conditions and should be kept clean, safe and inviting. Presently, much is to be desired about our local transit system.

  6. Jennie Stadnichuk // February 10, 2021 at 2:02 PM // Reply

    I completely agree with Nancy and Sheila. Another big plus about a needed facility in the downtown area is its proximity to Royal Inland Hospital. Short trip from a possible Columbia & 6th location to RIH, or in the other direction. I had an 90+ yr old friend who was in RIH for a procedure but needed Ponderosa for a few more days of recovery. It was so convenient for the ambulance to transfer her there. It’s a wonderful place despite its age. She received the care she needed and loved every minute of having the company of fellow patients (she lived alone so it was a real treat!).

  7. Well said Nancy. I am in total agreement. I wrote to Kamloops This Week and Minister Dix when the 100 Extended Care Beds were announced and strongly recommended that the beds be in the Kamloops downtown core .
    I suggested this at a number of City Downtown Planning meetings over the past few years. Even recommending when plans were discussed for the Provincial Land at the corner of 6th and Columbia that it was the perfect location. (this was also in my letter to Minister Dix and KTE).
    After the all the tragedies within extended cares country wide during the pandemic I am also strongly urging that the beds be provided in a government care facility.
    I am hoping that other Kamloops Citizens, our MLAs and our City Council Support this.

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