When people think of River Heights Lodge, they often think of it as a senior's lodge.
Lorraine Wright, a special care aide at the facility, has worked there for the past 17 years and has noticed in recent years the admittance of younger patients. Currently, Wright said there are five patients under the age of 40 in the facility, and she is concerned about the effect this is having on the patients.
"Some are very vocal and it's distressing to the seniors," said Wright.
"This is supposed to be a home away from home for our seniors and now the whole place is in an uproar," she said.
Wright said the environment preferred by seniors, such as noise level or what channel is watched on the communal televisions, is not necessarily appropriate for younger people.
"They should be in a facility that's more orientated to their needs and wants," she said.
While it is true the majority of patients residing in the lodge are seniors, River Heights Lodge is classified as a special care home, by definition "a facility that provides institutional long term care services to meet the needs of individuals usually having heavy care needs, that cannot appropriately be met in the community through home/community based services." (www.health.gov.sk.ca)
Barbara Jiricka, vice-president of integrated health services for PNHR, said while uncommon, there have been young adults and even children at many of PNHR's 12 special care homes over the years.
"This isn't something new," said Jiricka, "This has been going on for years within our health region and within the province of Saskatchewan, for that matter."
Jiricka explained a number of facilities, which began as retirement homes, converted over to special care homes in the mid 1970s, in order to better serve the needs of the communities.
Jiricka understands the concern some might have about younger residents in what are perceived as seniors' lodges, but poses the question: "Where else would you like them to go? Where else do you think they should be?"
She explained there aren't enough young adults needing special care in the region to form a special care home catering specifically to young adults, and even if they did, such a facility would have to be centrally located, which could be undesirable for some patients wishing to remain close to family and friends.
Jiricka said the transition to a special care home is challenging for everyone.
"No matter what we do, we can't create 'home' for everybody. We try to make a safe environment, staff do their very best to try to make things as home-like as possible, but you know what? It's not your home, it's not your favourite food, it's not your favorite stuff ... and regardless of what age you are, it makes it difficult," she said.
"We look after the needs of people within our health region to the best we can with the resources we have," said Jiricka, adding PNHR works with young adults in special care homes who wish to reside in a home with a greater population of young adults or close to amenities such as universities or accessible transit.
Jiricka said one difficulty faced by young people is that health regions will give priority to those residing within the region. She explained PNHR has a single entry point committee made up of long term care managers and home care assessors that meets every week. Using a standardized assessment tool to evaluate the risk and need of individuals on the waiting list, the committee determines which patients are placed into special care home beds first.
Since every health region operates similarly and gives priority to those residing in the region, it can be difficult for younger people in our region to move to more desirable homes, as they are often located in Saskatoon or Regina.
"There is a need for a provincial resource for young adults who need residential, medically complex care, and there should be a provincial single entry point for them," said Jiricka.
Judy Junor, NDP health critic, has been conducting a wide-ranging health tour. She has already visited several special care homes, such as the ones in Meadow Lake, St. Walburg and Turtleford.
Junor said she wasn't aware of the issue of younger people residing in homes whose populations are mostly seniors, until her tour. In one of the facilities, she was approached by a young man who begged her to get him out of the home.
"His frustration was so evident," said Junor. "There has to be a solution. If I've seen three cases already in two days, I'm sure it's an issue."
Junor said she plans to bring up the matter to the health minister.
"Certainly I would encourage the minister to pay attention to this issue," said Junor. "There needs to be appropriate care for both seniors and younger people."