Liza Hart and Shelene MacNeil pictured outside of the Bulkley Lodge in Smithers (Photo: TREVOR HEWITT)

Smithers adult day program makes strides, but access still an issue

A Bulkley Lodge integrated adult day program has been going great – if you can get there, that is.

An integrated adult day program (ADP) in Smithers has been going great – if you can get there, that is.

At an Apr. 15 Northern Health public board meeting, Liza Hart and Shelene MacNeil gave an update on the program, which is now integrated with Bulkley Lodge. From 2004 to 2013, the ADP was a separate program from the services the long-term care home provided.

And while the initial program had its successes, Hart and MacNeil acknowledged a number of challenges, such as an increasing number of clients being turned away over the years due to having specific physical or behavioral care needs.

Hart is the manager of residential care for Northern Health’s northwest east cluster.

She said lack of availability of the program was also an issue, with many families feeling the previous hours of Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. were not flexible enough for households using the service.

The solution? During 2013, the ADP was integrated with the Bulkley Lodge, something Hart and MacNeil said has been essential in providing accessible, comprehensive care to people using its services.

And while they pointed to many improvements, such as an increased number of staff and availability, the underlying caveat was that a lack of transportation is still a major issue for many people looking to access the program.

“‘Where do you live?’ – thats the question I least look forward to asking when I speak over the phone,” said MacNeil, a recreation therapist who works with the program.

She noted many of the ADP’s clients come from outside of the downtown core.

“When I have to say ‘the bus doesn’t go out there,’ it doesn’t feel right.”

Although BC Transit offers free transportation to clients of the ADP, there are many limitations. In addition to not serving outlying areas, bus drivers must squeeze clients in between their regular routes – something that isn’t always possible.

MacNeil added another common issue is a lack of accessibility for those with mobility issues.

“I often have to deny people a spot because they’re in a wheelchair and the bus only has two spots.”

But for all the challenges the program has faced, it’s also made big strides. MacNeil said one of the biggest changes she has seen is an increased number of people staying for fewer days of service.

She gave the example of an individual who came to the program after a stroke and would spend about three days a week at the facility working on mobility rehabilitation.

“After about six months, his wife called and said it was working and that he could go down to one [time a week].”

Another individual had to admit his wife to the program, but still wanted to be able to eat dinner with her, something that MacNeil and Hart said the program can provide now that it is integrated with the Bulkley Lodge.

“Knowing they can drop their loved one off on their way to work and pick them up on their way home, it gives them a sense of comfort,” said Hart.

Prior to operating out of the Bulkley Lodge, the ADP ran out of the Pioneer Place Seniors Activity Centre.

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