Focus on seniors

The problems won't go away unless there are significant adjustments made in the seniors' care system

The B.C. Liberal government’s appointment of Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie in March 2014 was a great move that will help seniors in British Columbia.

Mackenzie’s appointment followed up on the Office of the Ombudsman’s 2011 report on seniors care in B.C., which included 150 recommendations to solve the problems.

After settling into her new job and talking to seniors, in late 2014 the seniors’ advocate office conducted a significant survey of seniors’ knowledge of benefits that are available to them from the provincial and federal governments.

The results showed seniors 75 years and older and those with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less had limited awareness of government programs that would help curb expenses.

Noting even seniors who are aware and use the benefits are still struggling to make ends meet, Mackenzie said she could only imagine the challenges being faced by those who aren’t accessing their entitlements.

The survey also found a high number of seniors, especially those with low incomes, worried they needed to move because they couldn’t afford to remain in their homes. However, most of them felt they would be able to stay in their homes if they had daily home support.

The seniors’ advocate noted this issue needs to be studied to see if the trail from independent housing to assisted living and then residential care is affordable, accessible and appropriate.

While half of the seniors surveyed said they have some ancillary health-care benefits to cover glasses, hearing and mobility aids and dental care, 65 per cent of the seniors with household incomes below $30,000 had no coverage.

On April 7, the Seniors’ Advocate Office released the results of a study of seniors in both home and residential care in B.C. and compared the statistics with those in Alberta and Ontario.

The study found that B.C. patients are prescribed more anti-psychotic drugs and received less physiotherapy and recreation therapy than the other provinces.

An Interior Health spokesperson says IH is aware of the problems and has to consider how it can improve its services.

The key to solving these issues likely points to exhausting all home supports and alternative living arrangement before moving seniors into residential care, which would, in turn, open more residential-care beds throughout the province, Mackenzie notes.

All of the issues in the survey and the report relate to things that are happening in the South Cariboo. The problems won’t go away; they will only get bigger unless there are significant adjustments made in both the seniors’ care system and in the minds of the folks who are running the system and the MLAs who hold the purse strings.