Health care, housing and continuing care for seniors: A Yukon government priority

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek SouthStacey Hassard, MLA for Pelly-NisutlinAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, October 2, 2015
by Stacey Hassard, Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation
and Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

The Yukon Party government has a proven track record of investment in the health and wellbeing of Yukon seniors and elders. Since forming government in 2002, we have made significant investments in health care for seniors, ranging from basic supportive services that help them remain independently at home to long term facilities for complex care.

We make every effort to help seniors stay in their own homes and in their own communities, with family and friends nearby. But when that is not possible, we are proud to offer them the finest in continuing care programs. Seniors and elders are an essential part of our families and of our communities. Many are parents, grandparents and great grandparents who are at the centre of family life. We want to give back and care for them, as they have cared for us.

There is broad agreement that remaining at home, or “aging in place” is the ideal strategy for most. For those who cannot do so, our government dedicates extensive resources to social housing through the Yukon Housing Corporation and to continuing care facilities through the Department of Health and Social Services.

Seniors’ social housing is primarily for low-income individuals who cannot obtain affordable and suitable housing on the private housing market. The Yukon Housing Corporation (YHC) has 200 residential units in its social housing stock that are exclusively for seniors and provide opportunity for those aged 65 years and older (or over 55 with mobility challenges) to live independently. The seniors’ buildings offer residents affordable housing that is safe and convenient. For example, the new Mayo seniors’ 6-plex includes wheelchair access, push-button elevating cabinets, way-finding and visual aids, large low-threshold showers, and common areas for socializing. The safe and comfortable units provide lower income seniors with the option to age in place in their community.

The design features of YHC’s newest buildings benefit from the input of an Accessibility Advisory Committee, comprised of Yukon Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services staff, along with community partners from groups such as the Yukon Council on Aging and the Challenge-Disability Resource Group.

Yukon Housing Corporation also prioritizes housing placement for those seniors that need to move from rural Yukon to a community with hospital services in order to be closer to critical medical care.

When medical needs are greater than can be managed at home, even with professional assistance, moving to a continuing care facility is often the wisest and safest option. And in many cases, it’s the only option. There are currently four continuing care facilities in Yukon: Copper Ridge Place, Thomson Centre, and Macaulay Lodge in Whitehorse, and McDonald Lodge in Dawson City.

Yukon continuing care staff endeavour to create a feeling of home and belonging for all residents. They are dedicated to understanding the unique needs of each and every resident. Employees work hard to create a community that respects and promotes dignity, individual freedom, choice, lifestyle and meaningful quality living while at the same time managing acute health care needs.

Copper Ridge Place is a 96-bed continuing care facility that provides complex care for seniors and non-seniors with chronic ailments or those who need extensive assistance with activities of daily living on a 24-hour basis. It also has a special care program providing individualized care in a therapeutic and secure environment for clients with dementia.

Thomson Centre is a 29-bed facility that also offers high level continuing care services, while Macaulay Lodge, with 47 beds, currently offers intermediate level residential care, in addition to respite care for seniors and adults with complex care needs.

McDonald Lodge, located in Dawson City, provides continuing care for those who require light to moderate assistance and personal care. It has 9 residential beds and 2 respite beds. It also provides home care nursing, home support services and meals on wheels to clients who live in their own homes.

In addition, we are building a new 150-bed continuing care facility in the Whistle Bend area of Whitehorse, designed to provide the highest levels of care for those who require 24/7 nursing care and monitoring. It will be a warm and comfortable home, while offering the necessary medical care, including community hospice palliative care, a specialized mental health unit, a community day program, a First Nation healing centre and a traditional food program.

As a government, we are proud of our legacy of consistently considering all aspects of health care for Yukon seniors and elders, as well as our record of timely investment in their well-being.

As Ministers of Yukon Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services we would like to thank each and every employee for their professionalism and their dedication as they contribute to the care of Yukon seniors and elders.

For more information on social housing go to http://www.housing.yk.ca/seniors.html.
For more information on continuing care programs go to http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/residentialcare.php.

To speak with someone about housing options for seniors in Yukon, call 867-667-5712.