Hundreds of seniors stuck living in hospital without need for hospital care

Right now 500 vulnerable older adults are living in Alberta hospitals rooms according to Dr. Carl Arnheim, Deputy Minister of Health. They don’t require hospital care, but cannot be discharged because no suitable setting is available in the community.

Media call them “bed blockers” because treatment beds are “blocked” from their primary purpose, to treat patients with acute health concerns. Michael is a 58-year-old who was living with his elderly mother due to a developmental delay, which is complicated by chronic schizophrenia. Considered an independent adult, he thrives best when he has support such as prepared meals and administered medications.

During a stay in hospital due to a gall stone attack, his mother was forced into a hospice. Suddenly, Michael was without a supportive home. His complex care needs limited his housing options. Finally, after more than two years in hospital, Michael moved into Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta (TPFA)’s Peter Coyle Place.

While this may seem like an extreme case, others cannot be discharged because they cannot afford a supportive facility due to poverty. Compared to other urban centers in Alberta, Calgary lacks a menu of affordable supportive housing options.

The TPFA RESOLVE project will result in 120 affordable suites for older adults in NE Calgary. The project consists of 50 units of affordable seniors housing and 70 units of permanent supportive housing for persons 55 and older who cannot be discharged from hospital due to their medical complexity.

TPFA has operated Peter Coyle Place for 11 years and has developed a harm-reduction care model that works well with those who have complex care needs.

Lawrence Braul, CEO of TPFA explains, “It is a tragic reality that supportive care beds are in short supply in Calgary. The situation causes extended hospital stays while others are moved to centres outside the city because of this shortage.”

The cost effectiveness of the TPFA approach is easily proven. In the case of Michael, his hospital care costs over a two-year period were approximately $730,000. At Peter Coyle Place, he is safely housed and supported at a cost of $34,000 per year.

“This is an investment that benefits the whole community,” says Braul.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that there are 500 vulnerable older adults living in “Calgary hospitals”. The number actually reflects those in Alberta hospitals.