01 Oct International Day of the Senior:
Published in The Chronicle Herald Oct 1, 2015
More than two years ago, my grandmother moved into a long-term-care home. Yet the decision to move came much earlier. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother found her condo too difficult to manage on her own. She needed more care than the visits from family could provide. So she and my family made the decision to look into moving to a facility where she could receive care around the clock.
That was over four years ago.
Today is the International Day of the Senior, a day to consider our elders and to strive to ensure they are able to age with dignity and support.
My grandmother, like many of our province’s seniors, waited years to get into a home. She was 86 at the time and waited a total of 26 months for a bed.
My grandmother’s experience is the norm, not the exception. The average wait time in Nova Scotia is 333 days, though seniors in many areas of the province face far greater waits. Provincewide, there are over 2,100 patients waiting for a long-term-care bed.
The situation in home care is hardly any better, with over 800 people waiting for care. The challenge of providing adequate care for our elderly will become even more acute in the coming years. Nova Scotia has oldest population in the country, and by 2026 a quarter of our population will be over 65.
Despite the rhetoric of a rising “grey tsunami,” an increase in seniors will not add significant costs to the health-care system. Even with the oldest population in Canada, aging will only increase health costs by 1.5 per cent per year. A 1.5 per cent increase is easily manageable — as long as health funding remains stable.
The federal Conservatives have announced a $36-billion reduction in health funding across the country. These cuts will take place over the next decade, coinciding with the aging spike. They are the result of a reduction in health transfers and from changing the way health care is funded. Now, instead of considering illness or rural access, health funding is based on population size alone.
Combined, these changes mean Nova Scotia will lose $902 million, in spite of the higher rates of chronic illness here and our increasing needs. To put that into context, $902 million is equivalent to roughly 10 per cent of the province’s entire nursing staff.
Already, Nova Scotia is struggling to give chronically ill patients the care they need. So what will happen a decade from now, when the Conservatives have cut close to $1 billion?
Without federal leadership, the financial strain on seniors and their families is too great, and care is based largely on the ability to pay private corporations. We should never have to worry about the quality, affordability or access to continuing care for the seniors in our lives.
That’s why the Nova Scotia Health Coalition and our partners across the country are calling on all federal parties to restore health funding and to create a national seniors’ care strategy. A national seniors’ care strategy would provide home care, hospital care, long-term care, hospice and palliative care to aging Canadians as they need it.
At present, the continuing care system is a mix of public and private with large gaps that leave many patients without coverage.
Caring for our seniors is a Canadian value. That’s why this federal election, voters across the province are pledging to vote for public health care online at www.votepublichealthcare.ca
Instead of supporting a party or a candidate, thousands of voters like have us have pledged to support candidates who will do the most to improve and expand public health care.
If enough of us commit to vote for public health care in the 2015 federal election, we can elect a government that will restore funding to health care and make much needed improvements to the health-care system, including a national seniors’ strategy.
Add your voice at http://votepublichealthcare.ca/
And if you or someone you know has experienced difficulty in receiving continuing care, please let us know. Sharing your story can help create change for millions of Canadians.
Nova Scotia Health Coalition
James at NSHealthCoalition.ca