Les and Pansy Allen hold hands as they sit on the couch in their Closeleigh Manor apartment in Whitehorse on April 5. Doctor’s orders are for Pansy Allen to use her walker only when she moves from her wheelchair to the bed or the couch, but the wheelchair is useless in her downtown carpeted apartment. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse elderly couple still waiting for ground-floor housing

Mobility issues make third-floor living difficult

Doctor’s orders are for Pansy Allen to use her walker only when she moves from her wheelchair to the bed or the couch, but the wheelchair is useless in her downtown apartment.

She doesn’t have the arm strength to roll it over the carpeted floors at Closeleigh Manor. It can’t turn the tight corners in her hall. It’s too wide to fit through door frames and allow clearance for her hands. So it’s been sitting in her bedroom since she was released from the hospital after breaking her ankle March 17.

“Thirty years ago (this building) wasn’t designed for wheelchairs,” said Pansy’s husband Les on April 5. “It’s real awkward. It’s not (Yukon Housing Corporation’s) fault, it’s just the way things were then. These places weren’t designed for people who are incapacitated.”

Pansy, 83, broke her ankle after tripping on the stairs on the way up to her third-floor unit. She was taking the stairs because the elevator was down. Delayed repairs postponed her return home from hospital. In the meantime, Les, 96, couldn’t leave the unit. He has COPD and his need of a walker prevented him from using the stairs.

Since then, the elevator has been repaired, but Pansy’s daughter, Pat Allen-Shevchenko, said the situation isn’t ideal for her parents. The family has been waiting nearly a month for a solution.

They’ve spoken with YHC about moving Les and Pansy into a main floor unit in Closeleigh or a different retirement residence, but Allen-Shevchenko said there hasn’t been much progress.

She said they were offered a unit at Yukon College. Les mentioned Whistle Bend, but Pansy made a face. She doesn’t want to live that far from downtown.

“Once she’s healed she’ll be out walking,” said Allen-Shevchenko. “She takes the trolley train, she walks halfway around the Millennium Trail. She’s active. I don’t even know what the bus schedule would be like coming down from there.”

Right now, the couple’s daughters are working together to bring their parents groceries and check in on them. If they didn’t live close enough to do that every day, Allen-Shevchenko said she guesses they’d have to rely on homecare, which has been making visits every other day to change the dressing on her mother’s ankle inside its walking cast.

Les is calm about it. He doesn’t care to leave the apartment anyway, but he understands his wife’s need to get outside.

“It’s just a matter of being patient now,” he said. “You can’t rush things. You can’t go around knocking people off to make room.”

Allen-Shevchenko is less patient.

“This is our frustration because now (dad’s) going to say ‘we’ll just wait for Yukon Housing,’” she said. “If that elevator goes out, and you can feel it when you’re in it, it’s making noise like it’s going to quit again. So many people I know won’t even come up in the elevator.”

That includes Pansy, who’s nervous about getting stuck in it.

Right now, Allen-Shevchenko said their best bet seems to be a unit at Waterfront Place. She said YHC met with them in March, and suggested there might be a unit coming available at 22 Waterfront Place, but no timeline has been mentioned.

Allen-Shevchenko said her aunt lived in a unit at Closeleigh. When she died, Allen-Shevchenko said it was three months before anyone new moved in. She’s concerned her parents will have to wait a similar amount of time for a unit at Waterfront Place.

Meagan Dueling, communications with YHC said YHC can’t discuss specific cases but she said turnaround time varies, depending on how long the former tenant was living in the unit, which determines the amount of work to the unit that’s required.

She also said a tenant’s place on the list is determined by an assessment of their situation, and permanent disabilities are prioritized over temporary ones.

“The good thing is that Les and Pansy have a family that is actively engaged and so they’ve got good advocates,” said NDP leader Liz Hanson.

Allen-Shevchenko contacted Hanson in late March.

Hanson said that while the Allens are in a tough spot, a positive point is that their situation has raised the profile of something that’s an issue for many Yukoners.

Hanson said she’s aware of at least one person in acute hospital care, who has been waiting for months on a YHC unit. That person’s family travels in from outside Whitehorse to visit and assist.

Hanson said that, in the past, YHC has insisted it can’t move people between units, so she’s happy to see YHC seems to be considering a move for the Allens.

Hanson and the Allens would just like to see if happen more quickly.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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