Caring for a senior in a B.C. hospital costs the taxpayer between $825 and $1,968 daily, compared with $200 for long-term residential care…. Canadian Medical Association (CMA) chief, wants Ottawa to work with other levels of government to develop a national strategy for seniors’ care, with an early contribution of $2.3 billion to help provinces invest in more long-term care resources.
Within days (Vancouver Sun, Dec. 4, 2014) Terry Lake, B.C. Minister of health responded:
We spend over $2.8 billion each year on home and community care alone, an increase of more than 79% since 2001. During this time, we have increased the number of publicly subsidized residential-care, assisted-living and group-home beds by over 6,400—to nearly 32,000 beds province wide—and provide home health services to more than 96,000 people, up 23 % since 2001…Since the federal changes to the Canada Health Transfer penalize provinces such as B.C. with a higher number of seniors, we are advocating the federal government create a national seniors’ strategy, which reflects the demographic realities of each region.
On Friday, February 6, 2015 there will be a special event called “System Change for Seniors Care.” This forum features BC’s Ombudsperson, Kim Carter, who will speak about her office’s ongoing role in monitoring the government’s response to her recommendations on seniors care; and the new Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie who will talk about her plans to monitor and advocate for better services.
It would seem that everyone is on the same page—more resources are needed and ideally the Federal Government should be the ones to coordinate and subsidize the plans. The CMA has asked the federal government for $25 million over five years to put together a plan. But wait; there are things you should know:
Canada is the only G8 (now G7) country without a national dementia plan. The G7 consists of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union, Russia (Suspended). The G7 is composed of the seven wealthiest developed countries on Earth (by national net wealth or by GDP).
Establishing a national plan for Canada would be a challenge because health care falls under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government could play a role in ensuring minimum standards and best practices are shared between the provinces and territories. CMA president, Dr. Chris Simpson declared “It’s really leadership, I think, that we need. That’s where the federal government can help” (Leadership needed on national seniors’ care strategy, Jim Day, The Guardian, Aug. 28, 2014; Canada urged to develop national dementia strategy, Jessica Barrett, Post Media News, Dec. 11, 2013).
In the CMA’s 2014 National Report Card on health issues, 95% of Canadians aged 45 years and over identified the need for a national strategy for seniors care. The report also found that 81% of these Canadians are concerned with the quality of health care they can expect in the future. As well, 78% are concerned about their ability to afford quality home and long-term care during their retirement. In response, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the federal government is committed to working with the provinces and territories to ensure Canadians of all ages have access to high quality health care. “The government has invested millions of dollars into research on age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia”… “The economic cost of treating these illnesses in the future is estimated at billions of dollars per year” (Baby boomers call for national seniors care strategy, Marlene Leung, Aug. 18, 2014).
There you have it, it has been recognized by all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal that we are in crisis mode, that changes need to be implemented to care for seniors as they age, become more vulnerable and need increasing levels of care. As of January 2015, the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have been silent on the issue of creating a national senior care strategy. The organization CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) is calling “for national senior care strategy, with or without Ottawa.” What does Canada need to make a countrywide strategy to care for an aging population? Ten premiers in agreement and not much else, according to CARP, an advocacy group for senior citizens There’s no point in spending our time pummeling the dead horse of a federal role…the organization and its members aren’t waiting for a federal partner that may or may not arrive after next year’s federal elections they want to see the premiers take action on a national senior-care plan now (CARP calls for national senior care strategy, with or without Ottawa, www.carp.ca/2014/09/10/).
In Canada a large proportion of older citizens exercise their right to vote. It will take a concerted effort by citizens, politicians and advocacy groups to break this gridlock. There is consensus as to the immanent dangers to seniors and to the system in general. Examples of national strategies of seniors’ health care exist in many countries. I recommend reading Denmark’s Organization and financing of social support to people with dementia and carers to understand exactly what is a national strategy for seniors’ health care and to motivate each one of us to act now!