Saturday, 23 April 2016 16:27

Ethnic Seniors Wait for Long-Term Care

Commentary by [             ] in Toronto

The wait to get a long-term care bed in Ontario has increased significantly in the last six years. An individual on a wait-list to transfer from a hospital bed to a long-term care facility waits just over two months, while those who have applied for long-term care while living at home wait 116 days for placement.
Yet, a report released last week by the Wellesley Institute has found that seniors from ethnic communities in Toronto have even more difficulty getting placed in ethnic long-term care homes.  Seniors waiting for an ethno-specific long-term care home wait for 18 months on average for placement into an ethno-specific long-term care home. The report noted that some of the longest waits for these high-demand services can be as high as eight years.  
Further, the report found that income is a factor. Basic accommodations provided in a long-term care home are in high demand. Yet, the report finds that for people able to pay for more expensive private accommodation, the wait time decreases by nearly three months.
Pricey care
Long-term care can be pricey. In 2012, Michel Grignon and Nicole Bernier priced the cost of long term care for “24/7 assistance in an institution costs around $60,000 per person per year.”
And the prices are only likely to go higher.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]hose who have applied for long-term care while living at home wait 116 days for placement.[/quote]
People looking for long-term care services have high needs.  In addition to providing living support for individuals, staff care for people with physical limitations, helping them get up from a bed or chair, eating, and using the bathroom.  With higher than average rates of dementia, depression and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and arthritis, these homes require highly skilled staff to give the medical attention needed by the elderly population using these homes. 
Ethno-specific long-term care homes are in high demand. They offer care in the same language as their residents, provide ethnic- and religion-sensitive food options and conduct social activities and entertainment specific to the community they serve.   
The ethnic familiarity provided by these homes are important.
Happier and healthier
The report notes that elderly individuals in ethno-specific long-term care homes are happier and healthier, “feeling less social isolation, lower rates of depression, and fewer falls and hospitalizations.”
Unfortunately, the limited access to these homes is only getting worse.  
While, the ethnic population has grown due to increased immigration in the Greater Toronto Area, there hasn’t been a similar increase in bed numbers in ethno-specific long-term care homes.  People in Canada are generally living longer than ever before, increasing overall demand for long-term care. This is good news overall, but those who would have normally stayed at home in their old age are now requiring more specialized medical attention.
Cultural acceptance
Finally, there is more cultural acceptance in immigrant communities for long-term care.  In some ethnic communities, there is an expectation that children will take care of their elders into old age.  Yet, attitudes within the community have shifted amongst second and third generation immigrants.  And the evidence that people have an improved quality of life in long-term care has resulted in less stigma and increased demand.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]ttitudes within the community have shifted amongst second and third generation immigrants.[/quote]
There are a few ways that immigrant families can prepare for long-term care needs in the future.  One option is long-term care insurance, which could help offset future costs for families. Further, governments could consider supporting a universal insurance program for long-term care that could share costs amongst Canadians. 
Finally, investments in long-term care would be key to ensuring the future of our seniors. Even more than governments, entrepreneurs could be encouraged to consider investments into the development of long-term care, especially for immigrant communities that do not currently have a place to go in their old age. While there are homes specific to the Chinese, Italian, Greek, Polish and Ukrainian communities, other immigrant groups will inevitably require these services.

[            ] is a contributor who has chosen to remain anonymous and has worked in the the health care industry for the last five years.
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Published in Commentary
Thursday, 17 March 2016 15:24

Breaking Silence Around Elder Abuse

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Asking seniors subtle questions about their daily routines opens up dialogue – and can point to signs of elder abuse, which rarely reveals itself in obvious ways.

Nirpal Bhangoo-Sekhon often asks seniors she meets about what they’ve been eating, who handles their finances and if their basic needs are being met. It is her job as case manager of the Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) to be curious.

“Unfortunately, if we don't ask those questions, we wouldn't know what's happening,” she says. “It gives you a better picture of what goes on at home.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household.[/quote]

In a 2009 report, Statistics Canada found that two-thirds of seniors who experienced family violence – physical force or threats – didn't sustain injuries. Seniors most at risk, based on reports to the police, are between 65 and 74.  

During her one-on-one meetings with seniors, Bhangoo-Sekhon will also illustrate scenarios to raise awareness of how common an issue elder abuse is. Holding such conversations regularly helps ease reservations about breaking their silence, which can take months, if not longer, she says. 

Reluctance to speak up

While elder abuse cuts across different cultural groups, they may contend with different obstacles. 

Language barriers and distrust in the police – mostly worries about being deported – aren't the only concerns stacked heavily against the decision to come forward, says Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) in Toronto.

There's the perception that speaking out would fracture family ties and bring shame on the community. 

“I don't think they want to be seen as a community that's going to expose their families or seen as betraying their families," says Sekhar. "They've almost accepted that ‘this is what's meant for me.’”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.[/quote]

Burial customs can also play a role in the struggle to come forward for seniors of certain faiths.  

With funeral rites traditionally being the responsibility of the son or a male family member, some express concern that their spiritual needs will not be looked after if they speak out, says Sekhar. “They're not worried about today. They're worried about the afterlife. It's hard to understand that – you're struggling in this life, but it's such a part of who they are.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household, she explains. 

Statistical profiles on elder abuse as it relates to the South Asian community aren't traced by front-line agencies such as the police and social services. Statistics Canada instead analyzes the prevalence of family violence along gender lines, while acknowledging that cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Possibilities for intervention

The immediate response to cases of physical abuse might be to find alternative housing, but in other instances, intervention through education is crucial, says Bhangoo-Sekhon.  

"If we can go in and educate the families – that, in the end, would be much more helpful and useful for the community than just pulling seniors out [of the home] and placing them in shelters," she says. 

Finding subsidized housing or placing elders in shelters isn't always the most feasible solution in cases of neglect or isolation, particularly if they're not used to living independently and are in need of a personal support worker, she says. 

PCHS has a caregiver support program, an extension of its efforts to address elder abuse, which is offered to those who are caring for family members. It is intended to relieve the strain of household demands. The program attempts to engender a culture of empathy, recognizing that the caregiver may be stressed, while getting him or her to understand the vulnerabilities that seniors face. 

"We help them understand the aging process," says Bhangoo-Sekhon, adding that changes in a senior's behaviour may create friction within the family if it's not recognized as a health issue.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed. They need enough funding to live in dignity."[/quote]

"[It's to help] them understand what's happening to their body, their brain, and that's out of their control."

Networks for seniors living alone

SAWC, through its community network, tries to locate housing for seniors so they can live independently, but finding affordable housing can take an average of seven years, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Thirty per cent of seniors make up the wait list, as cited by the Toronto Star from the organization's 2015 report.

Sekhar communicates regularly with seniors who live independently and tries to ensure that their landlords are responsive to building safety issues. "Many say they do that, but their concerns aren't always attended to," she says. 

SAWC holds a seniors’ workshop every Thursday where they can gather to discuss health and safety issues, along with abuse. It's a support network for seniors who live on their own, where they feel comfortable conversing in their mother tongue, says Sekhar. 

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed," says Sekhar. "They need enough funding to live in dignity."

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Published in Health

by Jacky Habib in Toronto 

Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.

“Instead of walking south, hed walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didnt know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.” 

Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities. 

Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimers and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care. 

The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peters main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule. 

“Its not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.” 

Reverting to native language, reliving trauma 

Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children. 

Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network."[/quote]

“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says. 

The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.  

It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.  

Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia. 

“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.” 

The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese. 

Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma. 

To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of people revert to their first language.”[/quote]

Accessing culturally specific services 

For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern. 

This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians. 

The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients. 

“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize theyre in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel theyre in familiar grounds and dont get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds. 

Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of peoples experiences and expectations. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”[/quote]

“Health-care [in Canada] isnt as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.” 

This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains. 

Caregivers face challenges also 

Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.

Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave. 

Although hes a quiet person who doesnt converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and its tough to handle on her own. 

“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. Ive got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I dont think positive, hell be worse.” 

Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified. 

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Published in Health

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver 

An advocate for Vancouver’s Chinatown has started a petition against rezoning a central block in the district because she says it would cost the site its heritage designation and distinct character. 

Nicole So, a graduate of the University of British Columbia (UBC), says the rezoning of the 105 Keefer site from a historic area to a development district doesn’t create space for cross-cultural, intergenerational experiences. 

The 23-year-old advocate says the revised 105 Keefer plan is what “everyone” doesn’t want.

The revised rezoning application is for a 13-storey building by the Beedie Development Group that includes 127 residential units and 25 seniors social housing units on the second floor. It also has commercial space on the ground floor. 

The petition asks for more senior housing, as well as more community and cultural spaces. So aims to have at least 1,000 signatures e-mailed to the City of Vancouver by Dec. 1. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Most participants want a “real” community and not something created solely for the benefit of tourists and visitors.[/quote]

“Chinatown already has a vision,” So explains, referring to a 2002 Chinatown revitalization report. 

The 14-page city document stated most participants want a “real” community and not something created solely for the benefit of tourists and visitors. 

“There was frequent mention of the importance of inclusiveness of Chinatown – for Chinese of various linguistic and cultural backgrounds as well as non-Chinese speakers, for young and old,” states the report. 

The report showed community members wanted a sense of festivity in Chinatown and to make it a “cool” place to visit, especially for youth. 

So mentions the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby as an ideal example of culturally sensitive space. The centre focuses on preserving and promoting Japanese Canadian culture. 

[youtube height="315" width="560"][/youtube]

Not interested in another ‘yuppie’ area 

Houtan Rafii, vice-president of residential development at Beedie Living (the home-building division of Beedie Development Group), said in an e-mailed statement that the company would work with the city on expanding and enhancing the nearby Memorial Plaza, a space with a monument for Chinese Canadian soldiers who represented Canada in past wars.

The statement said many Chinatown stakeholders received the amendments Beedie Living made favourably. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“One amendment in particular that is resonating positively with people is our voluntary inclusion of 25 seniors’ homes."[/quote]

“One amendment in particular that is resonating positively with people is our voluntary inclusion of 25 seniors’ homes, which will be a $7 million asset to Chinatown and represent 20 per cent of the entire building,” Rafii said. 

The City of Vancouver said in an e-mail to New Canadian Media that an increase in the building’s height from 90 feet to a maximum of 120 feet to support public benefits including heritage, cultural, affordable and social housing projects is under consideration. 

The city encourages concerned individuals to provide feedback by early January. 

Community members have repeatedly said to the media and city hall that they don’t want another Yaletown, a ‘yuppie’ section of Vancouver with dog salons and condos galore. 

A fading Chinatown

Toronto realtor Vivian Kim visited Vancouver in July for four days and wrote to someone in a Facebook group, “You must eat the garlic wings at Phnom Penh in Gastown!” 

Phnom Penh, a well-known Cambodian-Vietnamese restaurant, is actually located in Chinatown. 

“In my memory, Gastown and Chinatown all melded into the same kind of look,” recalls 33-year-old Kim during a phone interview. 

“It didn’t jump out to me as a big Chinatown,” she adds. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It didn’t jump out to me as a big Chinatown.”[/quote]

Kim says in comparison Toronto has a handful of Chinatowns with distinct neighbourhoods. She describes the one downtown as having an abundance of Chinese signage in red and gold, outdoor food markets and local mom and pop businesses. 

Susanna Ng, co-owner of New Town Bakery & Restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown, says people often complain about Chinese businesses closing down and moving out due to changing economy and residents. 

From her perspective though, business is good. She says her clientele tends to be more Caucasians and young people. “[I] don’t see many old people now. They’re in nursing homes or passed away.” 

As Chinese business owners are getting older, they are retiring, Ng adds. “Their kids, the second generation, don’t want to take over the place. They sell it instead, so no more local businesses.” 

Ng even struggles to find replacements for her restaurant staff, having had two cooks who retired recently. “In the Chinese newspapers, every time I open [them], the ads for ‘cooks wanted’ grow bigger and bigger. This is what I have to fight with.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A] new Chinatown in Vancouver is being rebuilt and young Chinese students are eager to be part of the vision.[/quote]

Rebuilding Chinatown

While the past fades away, a new Chinatown in Vancouver is being rebuilt and young Chinese students are eager to be part of the vision. 

International student Jane Jing Yi Wu is studying visual arts at UBC and she is working on a blueprint for the Keefer block. 

The 22-year-old Chinese national pulls ideas from her home, the China she knows. Wu wants to incorporate space for community art, family-oriented nightlife and food markets. 

When Wu first came to Vancouver three years ago, she was neutral about Chinatown. After learning about Chinatown’s history in an Asian migration course, Wu started to care more. 

Walking through the area, she thought of how the Chinese people paid the head tax, fought for their rights and survived in a new country years ago. 

She said that even though she’s an “outsider”, she wants the city to know that she cares. 

“I’m not Canadian, but I feel it’s time for us to do something for [future Chinese migrants].”

Editor's Note: This article has been updated from the original published version which incorrectly reported Beedie Living was working with the city to expand and enhance the 105 Keefer site instead of the nearby Memorial Plaza. 

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

During the 2015 election campaign, one issue remained imminent for many Canadians: how will the newly elected government improve the economy? But, a question less pondered, of interest to many immigrant communities is how will the government improve economic inequalities.

One economics professor from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University recently pointed out which promises made by the major political parties in Canada made would lower inequality.

“Inequality is more about wealth than income,” professor Krishna Pendakur said during a public lecture in Burnaby earlier this month.

Wealth, he said, is money generated from stocks, bonds, etc., and income is based on labour.

Economic platforms

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality  – more commonly referred to as the gap between the rich and the poor.

“They promise to grow the economy, to have a bigger pie, then a trickle-down effect,” he explained. “Whatever crumbles from this pie and falls down to the rest of the 99 per cent, that’s it.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality.[/quote]

Pendakur noted though that some trickle-down effect did happen with previous policies of low tax rates, low revenue and low public spending. “There was high skilled blue-collared incomes in Alberta while the party lasted.”

Looking to the Liberals and New Democrats, Pendakur said both parties promise to increase guaranteed income supplement, which is a good thing. The income supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.

To get the supplement, the recipients must be legal residents in Canada and receiving the old age pension.

Addressing national inequality

Pendakur pointed out which policies each party promised would likely be most effective in addressing national inequality.

For the New Democratic Party (NDP), he said the two major ones are national subsidized childcare and national universal drug coverage. “Both are long term commitments and [Tom] Mulcair will need more than one election to see it through,” he commented.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[F]or some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”[/quote]

Pendakur said political parties are careful about what they can claim because there are certain jurisdictions which federal governments don’t have a lot of control over.

Health care is decided at the provincial level, so that is why the NDP chose pharmaceuticals, he said.

“It’s good because, for some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Minimal wage is also a provincial jurisdiction, Pendakur explained, which is why the NDP promised a minimum wage of $15 per hour for federal workers. “100,000 workers will be affected.”

Turning to the Liberals, he drew attention to the party’s promise to increase child benefits with lower implicit tax rates on them.

The party also said it would raise tax rates on personal income over $200,000 by four per cent and lower income tax rates for the middle class from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

Privileging particular demographics

During the Q-and-A session, an audience member asked Pendakur what he thought about the Conservative party’s income-splitting tax plan.

“Income splitting is awful,” Pendakur replied.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Pendakur] said [income splitting] values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country.[/quote]

He said the plan values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country. “Why is this particular demographic worth more than others?”

University of Fraser Valley student Anoop Tatlay agreed with him.

“I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the [income-splitting tax] proposal that bothered me, but once he said it, it clicked,” stated Tatlay, who is a single mother. “I’d thought the same thing.”

Pendakur presented complex information in an engaging manner, said Tatlay. The newfound knowledge she gained motivated her to look more closely at the federal budget and public spending and try to understand it better.

As a Canadian citizen, the 37-year-old resident of Mission, B.C. said she plans to vote on Oct. 19.

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Published in Economy
Thursday, 17 September 2015 11:05

Youth Volunteers Support Chinatown Seniors

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

One outreach worker is creating a bilingual volunteer program because there's not enough support for Chinese seniors, especially those in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Chanel Ly, a 23-year-old outreach worker who is part of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, initiated the Youth for Chinese Seniors program because when she sees all these seniors – who are predominantly female – she thinks of her grandma. She cannot imagine not helping them out.

"I can't stand seeing seniors being neglected. It's disrespectful."

She points out that it's part of the Chinese cultural values to care for elders.

Ly will connect bilingual youth volunteers to seniors in the Strathcona area, the city's oldest neighbourhood.

Tasks for volunteers include translating legal documents, taking seniors to the doctor's office or the pharmacy, and informing seniors about their rights as tenants.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The biggest problem for Strathcona seniors is affordable housing.[/quote]

One of the biggest challenges Ly faced while building this program from scratch was the amount of work required because there was no previous infrastructure, despite the demand for service that was culturally appropriate and in Chinese.

The program will run from this month to March next year, Ly says, because that's when grant funding ends.

"The goal is to improve the quality of life for Chinese seniors."

Addressing Chinese seniors’ challenges

The biggest problem for Strathcona seniors is affordable housing. With condo developments in the area, rents are going up and pushing out the original residents.

Vancouver activist Sid Chow Tan believes the Chinese benevolent and clan associations should contribute to Chinatown by providing their buildings and property for social housing. These associations, grouped either by provinces in China or last name "clans," were community centres.

Historically, most of the association buildings were community homes and bachelor suites for Chinese immigrants, a demographic regularly ignored by the government and institutions, Tan says. "It's sad to see space that used to house hundreds and hundreds of bachelors are now used for mahjong and ping-pong."

Another concern for seniors is health, says Ly. "Doctors are not always accessible. Drop-in clinics are not always available. Or opened only during certain hours."

Volunteers will help by accompanying seniors to the doctor's office and translate if needed.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We want to fill in the gaps between the generations." - Chanel Ly, Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative[/quote]

Racism against Chinese seniors does happen at community centres, due to an unfounded belief that there's no such thing as poor Chinese people.

"There are poor Chinese," Tan said at a July event where bilingual volunteers and seniors met. "The Chinese poor doesn't want to be seen as poor. They just bear it."

Tan says they don't want to "lose face." In Chinese, the phrase means losing a combination of self-respect, honour and reputation.

Community survival

Despite the barriers they encounter, these seniors survive by banding together. "They're always self-sufficient and resourceful. They have their own networks," Ly says.

However, Mandarin-speaking seniors are even more marginalized, she says, because what little support there is, it's usually for Cantonese speakers.

Tan says the boomer generation couldn't leave Chinatown fast enough, but the "echo-boomers" came back. "They see something to save and protect. It's sacred ground to Chinese people.”

"It was where people organized to vote, worked to send money home," he says. "Now it's sullied by market forces, economic greed and political entitlement within the community."

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Three in five Canadians say their families are not in a good position, financially or otherwise, to care for older family members requiring long-term health care.[/quote]

Connecting generations

The program also promotes intergenerational interactions. Says Ly, "We want to fill in the gaps between the generations."

Ly started collecting volunteers before the summer and will have check-in meetings with youth once a month. At the moment, she has 15 dedicated volunteers lined up.

The online volunteer form is comprehensive, even asking for preferred pronouns. The program organizer says she wanted the volunteers to feel comfortable.

When asked if seniors – especially those with a traditional mindset – would be upset with transgender volunteers, Ly says the seniors might accept them.

She says they'll notice more that the volunteer is a young, Chinese-speaking person. They'll be grateful for the assistance, and would get to know them as human beings with good intentions.

Seniors’ health care: the numbers

A report titled "2015 National Report Card: Canadian Views on a National Seniors' Health Care Strategy" by Ipsos Reid Public Affairs for the Canadian Medical Association said seniors today represent 15 per cent of the population. In 1971, seniors only represented eight per cent of the population.

Three in five Canadians say their families are not in a good position, financially or otherwise, to care for older family members requiring long-term health care, the report said.

Respondents 55 years of age and older indicate they want more home care and community support to help seniors live at home longer as a key priority for the government.

Ninety per cent of Canadians surveyed believe we need a national strategy on seniors' health care that addresses the need for care provided at home and in hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities, as well as end-of-life care.

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Published in Health

by Selina Chignall

The results of the Canadian Medial Association’s report card on health care shows Canadians strongly believe in the need for a national strategy for seniors’ health.

According to the report, released today, 90 per cent of those polled said there needs to be a national strategy for seniors care — which should include support in home, hospice, hospital and long-term care facilities and with end of life care.

The survey also found that 67 per cent of Canadians believe the “federal government has an important role to play in developing a national seniors’ care strategy.”

More than 80 per cent of those polled say if the provincial and federal governments cannot agree to a national strategy, they believe the costs for providing care for the elderly will fall on younger members of the family.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We will just not have enough money to care about anyone.”[/quote]

With no additional funding on health care expenditures for seniors between 2000 and 2011, CMA President Dr. Chris Simpson said the health care system will become completely unable to care for seniors.

“We will just not have enough money to care about anyone.”

Provinces and feds need to work together

Access to quality seniors’ care is cause for concern as the average life expectancy in Canada is 81 years. And when the last of the baby boomer cohort reaches the age of 65, seniors could represent a quarter of the population.

Whoever wins this election, a majority of Canadians say they will need to respond to this demographic shift, and it will require cooperation among the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

“The fact that it’s a messy discussion and these are difficult issues simply can’t be an excuse for not cooperating with other levels of government … Canadians expect the feds and provinces to work on this,” Simpson said.

Despite jurisdictional limitations — as hospitals and doctors are provincial responsibilities — Simpson said the federal government could include health infrastructure in the Build Canada Fund and create tax credits for caregivers to stay at home.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We want people to think about where the parties stand on health when they cast their ballot.”[/quote]

Simpson says he was disappointed the issue of health care wasn’t raised in the first national leaders debate, and the lack of discussion about it during this campaign. Canadians should think critically about the parties platforms on health care when they go to vote.

“We want people to think about where the parties stand on health when they cast their ballot.”

Simpson points to New Brunswick, where 25 per cent of the hospital beds are filled with seniors waiting for placements in long-term care facilities. “That’s the future for the rest of the country whose aging population is following behind.”

Last week in British Columbia, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged to invest an additional $190 million to expand the Employment Insurance compassionate-care benefit. He promised to extend the benefit to those taking care of seriously ill family members and greater flexibility to caregivers if they need to take time off work.

Currently, the benefit is only available to those who can prove their loved one is at risk of dying within six months. Because of the strict time frame to qualify for benefits, Trudeau said “too often, folks are forced to leave their jobs and drain their personal savings to provide essential care.”

His pledge to extend these benefits is a small step in addressing seniors care, which Simpson says “is not something you can fix overnight. It takes planning and good will … if we can’t even agree that we need a plan then we are in really big trouble.”

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