Sharon Lafferty watched both of her elderly parents leave their home to access medical support services.
Neither wanted to go, but with the closure of the Elder’s facility in Denı́nu Kų́ę́ – Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, remaining in the isolated community became unmanageable.
“I think if we cared for them in our community they would not get lonesome. They would have more of their traditional foods, visitors, support from their own caregivers as oppose to having to meet everyone and make new friends,” Lafferty said.
When Lafferty’s mother suffered a stroke she was medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, where she received care for over a year.
Her husband was left behind.
“At that age separating her from my Dad affected his health. He was a diabetic and he stopped caring for his health. He was so lonesome caring for my mum,” Lafferty said.
Her 87-year-old father also moved to the next community over in Hay River, but it wasn’t smooth sailing.
“When he was at medical appointments, they (health practitioners) were wondering why he wasn’t talking. He has to have a boogie board where he writes things down to talk to him and then he will verbally talk back, but they didn’t know he was deaf.
“There was no communication between facilities,” she said.
The Elder’s Facility closed a decade ago due to funding cuts from the Territorial government.
It sits partially occupied by government offices.
Across the road, Mavis Klause, Sharon’s cousin packs up her house.
Medical travel has become unbearable for the 71-year-old.
“I have never seen the same doctor twice in five years. You don’t go see a doctor because you want to. The nurse will tell you when to see the doctor,” Klause said.
(Sharon Lafferty, middle, sitting with her cousins. On the right is Mavis Klause)
She said she has waited over two years to see a foot specialist for her diabetes.
More accessible healthcare was not the only reason in her decision to move.
Klause also cited fear of crime as another motivator and said that her doors must be locked because of a nearby bootlegger.
Two doors down Howard Beaulieu has a similar story.
Lafferty introduced us to him and acted as an interpreter.
Beaulieu lives alone and has limited mobility after suffering a stroke some years ago.
“When Howard wanted to raise his concerns over the crime around his house. I went over and told the personal support workers. I was told he would have to call housing and then they would have to call the RCMP.,” Lafferty said.
Howard expressed his frustration over having to contact different agencies over the phone with his limited speech.
“If something were to happen how could he communicate this to the RCMP going through a Yellowknife detachment and them not being able to understand his English because of his paralysis. You have to know him for a while to understand his English,” Lafferty said.
In the old Elder’s facility residents were able to press a button to access either a secretary or security.
When Beaulieu hit his head two weeks ago, he said there was no one to call over the weekend.
“Ten days later he says his head is still sore. I am wondering when they brought him to the nursing station, did the nurse tell his personal support worker to follow up if he had soreness or dizziness,” Lafferty said.
In the fall of 2018, a petition prompted by the Band Office circulated in the community.
It called on the NWT Health Minister to reopen the Elder’s Facility and received over 100 signatures.
The local MLA read the petition in the Legislative Assembly, but there has been no public discussion since.
APTN News, contacted the NWT’s Health and Social Services Authority but were unable to receive an interview in time for this article.
Lafferty, Klause and Bealieu all signed the petition, but whether or not any of them will live in the community long enough to see a positive change remains unknown.