CCPA Policy Note

Spot the Seniors: 2013 Budget Edition

February 21st, 2013 · · 3 Comments · Health care, Provincial budget & finance

As mentioned in last week’s Speech from the Throne and Tuesday’s 2013 provincial budget, BC’s population is aging. It’s projected the seniors population in BC will double over the next 25 years – meaning more than 30% of our population will be over the age of 65 by 2036. While the budget does mention aspects of health care needed to respond to this population shift (“doctor and specialist visits, prescription medications, home health care and residential care services” with attention to the “impacts of frailty, dementia and other health issues on seniors and their families” plus “enhancing the quality of life and supporting healthy aging in the community”), there is nothing in the budget to actually address these issues or ensure our system will provide appropriate care for our changing population.

Some of what’s needed – like investment in a substantially expanded public home support system, for example – require new/increased funding. But if such investments go hand-in-hand with strong provincial leadership to create a more integrated, patient-focused health care system, we’d also see savings not too far down the road. For example, integrated, accessible home and community-based health care services can help seniors live independently, stay healthy, and prevent crises that result in hospital stays. When the cost of treating a senior in hospital ranges from $825 to $1,968 per day compared to approximately $200 a day for residential care, investing in home support should be the obvious route for government to take.

Other needed reforms in seniors care would require only modest funds, yet were absent from either the throne speech or the budget. A year ago, in February 2012, BC Ombudsperson Kim Carter released the most comprehensive report on seniors care in BC’s history, making 176 recommendations on how we can make our system more organized and efficient, and more adequately and humanely meet the needs of our elders. Despite a healthy public discourse on seniors care inspired by the Ombudsperson’s report, the provincial government has done little to take up these valuable recommendations to date, and neither the throne speech or budget contained plans to do so in future.

The budget does highlight the recent appointment of a Minister of State for Seniors in September 2012, and the plan to appoint a Seniors Advocate for the province (an announcement that has been recycled so many times in recent months that it shouldn’t be new news for anyone).

I wonder how these new government positions will help to address the multi-faceted issues Kim Carter already spent over four years documenting, none of which directly called for the creation of new government appointments.

Not planning and organizing our health system to respond to our aging population is not just fiscally short-sighted. It also inherently undervalues the citizens who have collectively supported our economy and paid into our health system for decades, and means we aren’t making the best use of our health care dollars to ensure British Columbians of all ages can access the health services they need.

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    3 Comments so far ↓

    • Janice St John

      Unless we put some of Kim Carter’s recommendations into active legislation, the quality of care that senior’s receive will continue to decline.
      Long term care, is a complex and demanding part of our health care system that is often neglected by the Mininstry of Health in reducing the funding alloted to those who need LT Care.
      Reduction of staffing resident ratios, to the very basic minimum, cultivate an environment in which workload levels become impossible to manage.
      We need legislated staffing resident ratios that support a respectful quality of life, for those unable to care for themselves.
      We need an open conversation in order to plan for the huge increase in demand for Long Term Care services, that will be needed just around the corner.

    • Shannon Daub

      I agree Danny that it’s important for seniors to not be isolated and lonely – social supports and contact can reduce problems like depression, and increase the likelihood that health problems will be identified and dealt with proactively instead of turning into crises. For some families, a multigenerational home is a great thing. For others it is not possible or not ideal. Particularly for families with younger children, where both parents are working or for a single parent, the idea that they could also care for their own elderly parent or parents as they age and become more frail is not realistic — in fact, it’s precisely that impossible situation that many currently face and that an improved home and community care system could alleviate. Remember too that many seniors do not live near their children, may not want to live in the same home as their children, may have children who are themselves seniors (as is the case for many elderly whose children are in the baby boomer cohort), or may not have children at all. I think the key here is to ensure seniors have access to the right services and supports at the right time, so that they can make genuine choices about how and where they want to live. Home and community care services (home support, assisted living, residential care, etc) allow seniors to remain in their own homes and communities — which is what most want — and are much more cost-effective than hospital/acute care.

    • Danny Handelman

      Less government spending would be needed to support seniors if a larger proportion of seniors were to reside with younger members of their families, which would also result in reduced loneliness and increased ability for the seniors to provide daycare to their grand- or great-grandchildren.