Canadian Medical Association: Country Needs a National Seniors Strategy

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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