‘She should be coming home with me’: N.L. caregivers face tough choices due to home support woes

Kelly Piercey sits at her mother and father’ eating room desk, with her favorite photograph of them. After her father’s dying, her mom’s dementia progressed, and Piercey’s seek for home support staff started. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

The new CBC sequence Concerning Care takes a better take a look at home and respite care in Newfoundland and Labrador — which has Canada’s oldest inhabitants. It focuses on a scarcity of staff, the emotional and monetary toll of family members offering care to members of the family, and points that homecare staff themselves face.


When Kelly Piercey’s mother and father bought sick and wanted assist to keep of their home in Norman’s Cove, she tried all the things she might to make that occur.

Sitting on the eating desk in her mother and father’ home on a heat July day, going by way of images and keepsakes, Piercey displays on the rocky journey behind them — one crammed with love and dedication, but in addition struggles and, at instances, desperation. 

“I used to be drained however I used to be on this survivor mode,” mentioned Piercey.

“You deal with, ‘I would like to maintain my mother and father right here. I would like them of their home.’ And that is not the way in which life works.”

It started in August 2020, when Piercey tried to get palliative take care of her father, Hayward, who was dropping his battle with pores and skin most cancers.

“That’s when it began. I had no concept that there was such a scarcity of home support staff,” mentioned Piercey.

The employee they bought supported the household till Hayward had to be admitted to the Miller Centre in St. John’s, the place he died in October 2020.

Same cycle, completely different guardian

For Piercey, the seek for support began over — this time for her mom, Sylvia.

“Mom’s dementia actually bought uncontrolled then as a result of she misplaced her husband of 55 years,” mentioned Piercey. “The shock of Dad’s passing actually put her in a spin.”

Many issues Sylvia had been ready to do on her personal, like getting dressed, doing her hair or controlling the TV, abruptly grew to become unmanageable.

“Mom was a really massive knitter. All of a sudden she had two needles in her hand and she or he simply could not put it collectively,” mentioned Piercey.

A woman stands on the front steps of a house.
Piercey stands in entrance of her mother and father’ home in Norman’s Cove-Long Cove, about 100 kilometres west of St. John’s. That’s the place Piercey, who lives about 45 kilometres away in Brigus Junction, would keep often to deal with her mom. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

All typical indicators of dementia, which, in accordance to the provincial Alzheimer Society, is an umbrella time period for a set of signs, together with recollection loss, points with cognition, language and each day duties, or mood and character modifications.

Provincially, about 10,100 individuals stay with dementia. By 2030, that quantity is predicted to rise by greater than 40 per cent — to 14,500.

While Piercey instantly acquired home support hours for her mom, she mentioned the home support company she had employed struggled to provide steady protection of the wanted shifts — pointing to individuals selecting unemployment advantages over work in addition to to a shrinking working-age inhabitants in small rural communities.

“I lastly bought on the cellphone and mentioned, ‘You do not have anyone, do you?’ And they did not. So that is once I actually simply grew to become my very own advocate,” mentioned Piercey.

A close-up photo of two knitted dolls on a table.
Piercey says her mom, Sylvia, beloved to knit. One of Sylvia’s passions was to knit dolls and hats that she would then donate to the Janeway kids’s hospital in St. John’s. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

“I bought the cellphone guide out in the neighborhood and I began phoning individuals: ‘I would like a employee for Mom. I would like home support. Are you ?'”

When Piercey lastly discovered a employee, she quickly wanted a second and a 3rd — which nonetheless did not match Sylvia’s care wants.

So Piercey continued to step up — travelling backwards and forwards between her mom’s and her personal home in Brigus Junction, about 45 kilometres away.

“I mentioned to my father earlier than he died, ‘I’ll do no matter I can and maintain her home so long as I can’. Because that is what you need on your mother and father,” she mentioned.

A woman, left, and a man smile into the camera.
Sylvia and Hayward Smith, pictured right here in a photograph from the Nineteen Nineties, celebrated their fifty fifth wedding ceremony anniversary in October 2020, two days earlier than Hayward died. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The dedication stored Piercey, who had been between jobs when she began caring for her mom, from getting full-time employment. But she was instructed by Eastern Health that she wasn’t eligible for compensation as caregiver, both.

“What they instructed me was, as a result of I did not stop a job to keep home and deal with [my mother], as a result of I used to be already taking good care of her, there was nothing they might do for me,” she mentioned.

“Had I acquired some type of complement, it might have positively helped the scenario. It would not have given me one other employee as a result of I nonetheless would have wanted two extra.”

A young woman, left, and a middle-aged man smile into the camera. He has his arm around her. Clothes and hairstyles indicate the photo was taken xx ago.
Kelly Piercey and Hayward are pictured at a marriage about 15 years in the past. Hayward died in October 2020 due to quickly rising pores and skin most cancers. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

‘Who will pay salaries for 2 individuals?’

While Eastern Health did not touch upon Piercey’s particular scenario, a spokesperson offered CBC News with a hyperlink to a web site, which outlines that there are a number of necessities for somebody to be eligible as paid household caregiver beneath the Provincial Home Support Program.

Generally, any member of the family apart from spouses or common-law companions can be a paid caregiver beneath the home support program. Piercey’s mom, nonetheless, was enrolled within the Community Support Program.

While the well being authority dietary supplements half of the home support value, funding is based mostly on an individual’s earnings. For Piercey and her two brothers, who stay outdoors the province, that meant that they had to pay a big portion themselves.

“For me to maintain her home, I’d have wanted one other two staff, which then we’d have had to pay out of our personal pocket. I imply, who will pay salaries for 2 individuals?” mentioned Piercey.

Eventually, the scenario wasn’t longer possible for the household. Sylvia’s title was placed on the wait record for a long-term care mattress.

An older man, left, and woman smile into the camera.
Hayward and Sylvia Smith are pictured right here of their home in Norman’s Cove-Long Cove. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

As of Sept. 22, there have been 414 individuals on such an inventory, in accordance to the provincial Health Department — 188 within the Eastern Health area, 113 in Central Health, 99 in Western Health and 14 in Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Reducing the wait in addition to discovering options to the support employee scarcity are two of the desperately wanted enhancements to provincial home and long-term care, mentioned Piercey.

“[Eastern Health is] selling holding individuals of their homes however they make it very troublesome to achieve this,” she mentioned.

Then, after seven months — the decision. A mattress at long-term care facility Pleasant View Towers in St. John’s was accessible.

An older couple are smiling into the camera. They're standing in front of a Christmas tree.
Sylvia and Hayward Smith are proven right here in December 2019. It was the final Christmas the couple spent collectively. (Submitted by Kelly Piercey)

For Piercey, it was a reduction — and nonetheless, a choice that got here with guilt.

“Until you sit out in that parking zone and also you notice that, I’m not taking her home at this time, I’m leaving her right here. It’s not feeling,” mentioned Piercey.

“Months after she was on the home, each time I’m going go to her, I’d cry the entire manner home. I’d pull over on the Trans-Canada and I’d simply, ‘I can not be doing this. That’s my mom. She should be coming home with me.'”

An older woman is smiling. She wears both a birthday headpiece and ribbon.
Susan, pictured right here on her 76th birthday in June 2021, had already been exhibiting indicators of dementia for a number of years when Hayward died. After his dying, her dementia progressed quickly. (Submitted by Kelly Piercey)

Eight months later, at her mother and father’ eating desk, Piercey chooses to additionally bear in mind the positives.

“Before he handed, [Dad] mentioned, ‘I had life’, he mentioned. ‘My youngsters are joyful. My spouse was good to me,'” mentioned Piercey.

“That meant rather a lot to hear that.”

Over the following few weeks, Concerning Care will inform the tales of the individuals launched right here, alongside with others, on numerous platforms — together with on Here and Now, the CBC N.L. web site and on the radio.

If you’ve got a narrative to share, contact us at care-struggles@cbc.ca.

Read extra from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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