Calls in Queens for full-time senior safety coordinator

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Kim Masland, MLA for Queens-Shelburne and former senior safety coordinator for Queens County, at her constituency office in Liverpool.</p>

Proponents of senior safety believe the Region of Queens Municipality should do more to make its local coordinator full-time in order to ensure seniors are better protected from abuse.

"I felt that the region, and I still feel that the region, should be contributing to this program," said Kim Masland, MLA for Queens-Shelburne and former senior safety coordinator.

"I believe they should be a partner like other municipalities are."

A recent report prepared for the Region of Queens shows its Senior Safety Program is the only one in southwest Nova Scotia without a full-time coordinator, despite the high demand and past requests for more funding.

The report's author Chelsea Cottreau, a recent Masters of Public Administration graduate from Dalhousie University, wrote that a "clear theme" emerged where part-time coordinators were only part-time in terms of their salary.

"In reality, the amount of hours that go into these positions is much more akin to full-time employment, without adequate remuneration."

Masland, who was coordinator from January 2016 up until the provincial election, said she expected the job to be more about teaching seniors about fall prevention and other issues.

But in her first week, she met a man who had been sitting in the corner of his home alone for four days, with sores on his body and covered in blankets because his power had been disconnected.

The man was terrified of being taken away until Masland agreed to accompany him to the hospital. He died five days later.

After that, every case seemed to involve a health issue, particularly mental health, on top of the instances of sexual, mental, physical and financial abuse she encountered.

She cited the case of one woman whose grandson threatened to stop seeing her unless she gave him $50 for each visit.

By the end, Masland said she had around 500 clients who she actively followed up with.

"Literally I would follow them through to death, I would go to their funeral in the end."

With an increasing number of referrals and complex cases, Lisa Tarr, chair of the Queens County Senior Safety Association and an administrative support worker for the VON, said the position needs to be full time.

"The surge of problems has really changed compared to three to four years ago."

Coordinators are hired to work with seniors on a range of issues, often visiting people in their homes and making referrals to other services.

The senior safety coordinator for Queens works two days a week, with in kind support from the RCMP and a loaned vehicle from the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).

In Queens County, the program receives $4,750 in funding from the region and a $20,000 grant from the province. Last year, the region gave $2,000.

The program is managed differently in each county, through non-profits, municipal governments, the RCMP or a combination of all three, but programs with support from towns and municipalities were found to be the most successful and efficiently run in the province.

Lunenburg County, with between 90 to 100 clients, pays $47,110 for a full-time coordinator, using the same $20,000 grant and funding from municipalities, the community health board and United Way.

Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality David Dagley made note of this saying, "The funding sources are always looked at to the Region of Queens to throw all the dollars in, and I think on behalf of taxpayers we need to look at all ability and sources of revenue that may contribute."

Dagley said the position is very valuable to the region and its citizens and council will support the program.

He suggested that organizations, such as the local health foundation, could help support a coordinator in Queens.

"I think there's a need in Queens for full time work."

A new coordinator was hired recently and is expected to start in September following a background check.

Six people applied for the job and Masland thinks more didn't apply because it wasn't full time.

She herself has said if she didn't have a husband with a good income she couldn't have done the work.

But as Nova Scotians grow older and are increasingly living alone, Masland said the program will need the funding, whether it's the province or the municipality paying for it, because it has saved lives.

"Because if we lose senior safety programming, there's going to be a lot of seniors in trouble."

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