Houston council has been pressing for improvements to service levels at Cottonwood Manor. (Angelique Houlihan photo)

Northern Health overnight service not an option here

But seniors urged to sign up for emergency service contact

Houston won’t be getting an overnight safety check program from the Northern Health Authority for seniors anytime soon.

But it is encouraging people to sign up for the Lifeline program in which people who need help have a communications device to contact a call centre so emergency or other kind of assistance can be sent.

It is not a Northern Health service and there’s a fee to sign up and a monthly maintenance fee as well.

The news from Northern Health follows an early summer meeting between some of it senior officials and District of Houston council members in which the council members discussed ways to increase service to seniors, including looking at the possibility of nighttime safety checks that are in place in other communities.

The lobbying by council members continues the District of Houston longterm desire that more services be provided for the residents of the six assisted living units at Cottonwood Manor and for seniors in the area in general.

Northern Health official Eryn Collins said programs such as overnight checks are “dependent on staffing resources, and there are no immediate plans to implement this in Houston.”

“It’s important to understand such a program may not work for or be desired by everyone — some may find it intrusive, not want to be awakened in the night, etc. So we do encourage clients to use the Lifeline service, and many in Houston do,” she said.

Burns Lake did have a pilot program, the first in the north, whereby residents of an independent living housing complex and an assisted living residence as well as other eligible seniors could use the Lifeline service for non-emergent needs such as requesting help to go to the bathroom in the overnight hours.

That program did pass through its pilot phase in 2020 and was offered regularly, drawing praise for reducing the stress and burnout of family members of senior citizens and in providing a sense of security for seniors.

But that service has now been stopped, said Collins in citing staffing challenges. There are plans to revive it once some vacancies are filled.

“It’s fair to say that downstream impacts of waits for whatever level or type of care an individual is seeking, are seen in Houston as they are across the region — including an increase in demand for home support, for which we are actively looking at increasing capacity based on need in the community,” Collins added.

And Northern Health is looking forward to resuming a day program for seniors, something put on hold with the pandemic was declared last year.

Collins said there is nothing unique in Houston that Northern Health does not see anywhere else in the region when it comes to health care.

“We know that as the population ages, and we continue to focus on supporting seniors to be as independent as long as possible, that additional capacity and programs may be needed,” she said.

As it is, the average wait time is approximately 10 months for assisted living at Cottonwood Manor and there are five people on the wait list as of last week.

“Houston wait times are comparable to and in some cases quite a bit less than in other Northwest communities,” Collins said.