Nunatsiaq Online
LETTERS: Nunavut February 15, 2017 - 8:30 am

Mad Mom’s mad about elder care

"Bring our elders back home to their own land"

Iqaluit elders enjoy the RCMP Christmas dinner in later November 2014. The proportion of senior citizens within Nunavut's population is expected to grow rapidly in the future. (FILE PHOTO)
Iqaluit elders enjoy the RCMP Christmas dinner in later November 2014. The proportion of senior citizens within Nunavut's population is expected to grow rapidly in the future. (FILE PHOTO)

Mad Mom here. And what am I mad about this time, you ask?

I saw a Request For Proposals for accommodation for Level 4 and Level 5 elders—you know the ones we keep shipping down to Ottawa, who are as far from home as anyone could be at their age.

Seems like the Government of Nunavut is intent on prolonging the use of southern facilities, rather than getting some guts and doing what the people want and building a northern facility that embraces all levels, for our elders.

I hear from many friends and relatives that they tried to visit the elders in the Embassy West lodgings, only to be given the run-around about who it is that needs to okay this and many have been turned away. This is nuts.
There isn’t even an interpreter with these elders all the time, so how can the caregivers ever know what their clients desire or how they are feeling? This is nuts.

We forget some of these elders are married or were in relationships; now they are torn away from everything and everyone. Partners and children cannot afford the air tickets down to see them, so relationships shrivel up and loneliness sets in. This too, is nuts.

An older acquaintance confided that she has nothing to look forward to now, but a grim future, if she falls prey to being shipped out like the rest, far away from her children and grandchildren, the only ones that keep her going, she said.

I ask the GN, what on earth are you thinking?  Who among the many MLAs and ministers lacks the political will to stop this deportation of the most vulnerable at the most delicate time in their lives?  Is it all of you?

These people aren’t dead; they deserve a much higher quality of life than this. They deserve to play their rightful role in Inuit society to be cared for, with access to their own families, seeing their friends and feeling safe and comfortable in their homeland. No one should have the power to do this to them.

It is the same argument for treatment centres; spend all the money in the south, rather than pull together enough political will and funds to do it better up here, creating construction jobs, training strategies and employment for northern people, by keeping the money here.

My advice is, do not re-elect any of these politicians during the fall election, unless you start hearing candidates who have some backbone to get that treatment centre for us and to bring our elders back home to their own land. 

Don’t vote for any of the current MLAs who will not provide you with an iron-clad promise, backed up with a plan on how to accomplish both these things. Otherwise your vote will let them get away with turning their backs once again on these two issues, like they already have been getting away with.

Find and support better candidates next fall, who will listen to the voices of Nunavummiut!

Mad Mom

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(16) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bert Rose on February 15, 2017

I have asked this before without getting an answer.
How many Elders are in Ottawa at the Embassy West?

#2. Posted by qavvigarjjuk on February 15, 2017

Well said

#3. Posted by Elder Abuse on February 15, 2017

I want to agree with Mad Mom but I can’t help thinking that some of the people who cry crocodile tears over this issue just don’t want to lose access to those sweet sweet CPP and old age security cheques.

It is a separate issue but I think it has some influence on this one. In balancing the pros and cons of sending elders out, getting them away from their abusive families is probably part of the equation at least in some cases.

GN, stop sending elders away! People, stop robbing your parents and grandparents!

#4. Posted by Granny on February 15, 2017

I say Institutions for Everyone. Women in womens centre, men in jail, children in schools, elders in old folks homes,drunks in treatment.
Then everyone can be cared for by southern values and no one has any freedom.

#5. Posted by Get serious on February 15, 2017

Sorry Mad Mom but the GN doesn’t have the resources (financial, human, etc.)  to provide every necessary health service in territory and they never will.  Elders are just one of many small groups who will need to travel or live elsewhere to receive the treatment they require. 

I do feel for elders who are separated from their family and home.  It would be ideal if everyone could spend their last years in their community or as close as possible to it but building, staffing and funding an elder care facility large enough is unrealistic. 

We can barely fund and staff our current health services.  Pressuring politicians won’t change the fact that Nunavut will never have enough demand to make it feasible to provide niche health services within the territory.

#6. Posted by Serious on February 15, 2017

@#5 Actually, if there was any likelihood that a significant proportion of the staff of such a facility were Inuit it would be very cost effective. How much are they spending to send people out?

Problem is, on top of the capital costs you would need to bring in at least half the staff from outside the territory, and of course they’ll be expecting housing, etc. So, yeah if that’s your assumption then it’s going to cost more. But if you can “bully” a local workforce into stepping up, then maybe this would be better than the status quo.

#7. Posted by Elder on February 15, 2017

This sounds a lot like Pat Angnakak’s pet project to build an elders’ home in Iqaluit that we’ve been reading about.  If she pulls it off, she stands a good chance of being our next Premier.

#8. Posted by Get Serious on February 15, 2017

@#6 that’s the thing there is already a huge shortage of Inuit prepared or willing to do the many jobs that are currently available within the Territory.  There would be major challenges filling positions at all levels to staff an Elders home.  A full service elders facility like Embassy West has specialisd physicians and health care staff who treat dementia and other common elder health issues.  Elders need more then simple room and board.  They have complicated and sensitive health issues that need specific care.  Bringing the human and other resources necessary to provide said care into Nunavut is totally unrealistic.

#9. Posted by Get Serious on February 15, 2017

Whatever the Dept. of Health is spending to send elders to a southern care facility it is guaranteed to cost less then building and maintaining an elder facility in Nunavut.  Unfortunately even though the aging elder population is growing it is still the smallest age group in Nunavut.  Having an elder live outside of territory will always be cheaper.  Maintaining and staffing health infrastructures in Nunavut is rediculiusly expensive and southern facilities are closer to other necessary health services which means less medical travel.

#10. Posted by blurred vision answers on February 16, 2017

#5 “...and they never will.” with that kind of thinking no surprise you have all the answers posting one after the other.

#11. Posted by Jack Anawak on February 16, 2017

It is with sadness that I write this to the people who are quite biased against people staying up here to live out their last days in their homeland. Quite judgemental when the idea of Nunavut was to enable us to have more independance and more ability to operate our own affairs. We were quite gracious in allowing a public Government up here when we could have opted for self government. Unlike other groups we have always given great respect to our elderly and would like to continue to do so. It would be interesting if we could identify all those naysayers to keeping our elders up here because of costs and services..If the Government was really interested they can come up with the necessary planning and funds to set up an elders facility and utilize the people from up here to operate them.

#12. Posted by Get Serious on February 16, 2017

I’m sorry my realistic opinions are hard for some to hear.  I am just tired of Nunavumiut complaining about unrealistic services not offered in-territory.  Communities in Nunavut are no different from those in rural BC, Ontario, etc..  We will never have the money to provide all services to all people in their hometowns across Canada.  It’s cost prohibitive and the sooner people realize this the better.

#13. Posted by Serious on February 16, 2017

@#12 Well, which is it? We’re too small or we’re too costly? The two are related via economies of scale but not necessarily the same thing.

Most towns the size of Iqaluit down south have a nursing home and a retirement home - sometimes more than one of each. I don’t think that it’s that we’re too small. And I’m not sure it’s even that we’re too costly (although I do think our local labour market is a little unengaged and that makes things more expensive).

The GN has a fussy capital planning process, and I suspect this is just not on their radar. They only have time and energy for so many things, and planning an Elders Home from the ground up doesn’t make the cut.

But that doesn’t mean that if someone else builds it they won’t come.

#14. Posted by Go MLAs Go on February 19, 2017

Good bye to ALL MLAs as Mad Mom says, who WON’T get serious about getting these two things in place, as soon as possible,
Don’t vote for them.

#15. Posted by Go MLAs Go on February 19, 2017

Good bye to ALL MLAs as Mad Mom says, who WON’T get serious about getting these two things in place, as soon as possible,
Don’t vote for them. Keep Pat and Alex who are fighting for an Elders Centre and anyone else who fights for that Treatment Centre.
None of the rest.

#16. Posted by Health worker on February 20, 2017

#13 those are valid observations. It’s worth pointing out though that the federal government is devoting a fairly significant portion of its infrastructure plan toward social infrastructure.

So there is an opportunity there to secure up to 75% of the funding, which would make that project a lot easier for the GN to support financially.

The biggest problem is likely ongoing operating costs, which would require a budget able to cover 70 to 80 employees, including professional nurses, for a 72 bed facility.

The other is the quality of the Iqaluit labour force. You can talk all you want about training but much of the local Iqaluit labour force is uncommitted and sometimes unreliable with high absenteeism. That would do serious harm to the elders who are being cared for.

Care giving is hard, dirty, unpleasant work, cleaning up shit and vomit and dealing with seriously handicapped people.

I suspect much of the staff at this centre would end up being immigrant labour from the Phillipines and other places like that.

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