Stettler town council hears seniors home facing social media toxicity

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A large senior citizen home’s representatives appeared before Stettler town council to clear up some misconceptions about the facility that staff say are circulating on social media. The conversation took place at the Feb. 15 regular meeting of council.

Points West Living had two representatives appear, including general manager Darlene Ballek and staff member Lisa Smith, as a delegation to council to dispel information they said wasn’t accurate and was spreading on platforms like Facebook.

Ballek herself said that while managing a large seniors facility like Points West she often asks herself if she would feel comfortable placing her own loved ones in the facility and answered absolutely she would be when it comes to Stettler.

Ballek noted there has been some negativity out in the community surrounding Points West, and added that social media can be your friend or your enemy, pointing out that anybody can post anything on social media and the comment could be true, partly true or false. 

Ballek stated the staff wanted to address the negativity and untrue statements directly to council.

The general manager began by noting Points West is currently labouring under a staffing shortage which she noted is province-wide and not unique to Stettler and discussed the approach Points West takes regarding the effects this shortage has on programs. 

She added Points West Stettler currently has 10 full time equivalent (FTE) healthcare aide vacancies, plus vacancies in their licensed practical nurse (LPN) roster.

The general manager stated if a service has to be reduced because of staffing, then Points West tries to arrange for an outside worker to come in to offer the service. However Ballek stated, Points West is proactively trying to recruit new staff, and in fact is even offering ‘learn as you work’ training to those interested in becoming a healthcare aide. 

She pointed out since Stettler is a rural area the organization has a smaller population pool to draw from but is also considering foreign workers.

Coun. Gord Lawlor asked what services are typically affected by the staffing shortage, and Ballek answered things like light housekeeping, showers and laundry. She stated that even if services are reduced Points West still tries to offer services but they may not be scheduled as usual.

Coun. Wayne Smith asked if the labour crunch is affecting Points West’s hospice program. 

Ballek stated Points West isn’t accepting anyone into their hospice program right now but the organization and some stakeholders are having meetings every two weeks to work on that. She noted it appears a temporary solution has been reached and while Points West wants to offer the hospice program, Ballek stated the organization doesn’t want to take away from any other service to do it. 

She noted there is some negativity going on around the Stettler community right now because of this situation.

Coun. Smith asked how recruitment efforts are going and Ballek stated Points West lost some employees because they didn’t have two vaccine shots, some staff are gone on long term leaves and some got employment with the provincial government so it will probably be a while before Points West is back to full strength.

Lisa Smith discussed Points West’s dedication to the Eden Alternative care model, which she noted has the goal of making the facility feel like home for the residents. She noted Points West allows pets, offers intergenerational programs and much more to make the community as vibrant as possible.

Mayor Sean Nolls stated he sympathized with Points West and appreciated them setting the record straight as social media can create pandemonium where there isn’t any.

Councillors accepted the Points West presentation for information.

This item is reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Stettler, Alberta. See article HERE.

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