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Greying seniors – Are we ready?


Greying seniors. Are we ready? As the rate of aging of the country’s population increases, Canada needs to invest more in home care to meet the needs of its elderly citizens.

2016 census from Statistics Canada showed there were 5.9 million people aged 65 and older in the country. This number has already increased in the 2 years since the census. At the time this number was more than the country’s 5.8 million children 14 and younger.

In this census Stats Canada found that there were 770,780 Canadians over the age of 85. This group increased nearly four times as fast as the entire population between 2011 and 2016.

What are we doing to prepare? The Boomer ageing is here and we won’t accept “being placed” for our senior years. Is our Health care system keeping up? “We need to accelerate the pace of change in our health-care systems to build up those services in the home and in the community so people can live dignified lives in their older years,” said Danielle Martin, a family physician and a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

2015 report from the CBC estimates that 2.4 million Canadians over 65 will require continuing care support, both paid and unpaid, by 2026. By 2046, that number will reach nearly 3.3 million. (Globe and Mail) To meet this increase a 2017 CBC report released last March found that the demand for nurses to provide continuing care to seniors in home, community, and facility living settings is projected to increase from just under 64,000 full-time jobs to 142,000 full-time jobs by 2035.

Our health care system is still so centered on hospitals and “sick care”. Seniors want to stay home as much as possible. They don’t want to go to care facilities or their children telling them what to do. “We’ll get by with a little help from our friends”

I think we should be preparing for an increase in paid caregivers in the community to provide supportive care and support staying healthy in our homes. We should use our nurses to manage chronic disease and teach seniors to self-manage to stay out of hospitals. We can use fewer nurses to provide the teaching and use technology for them to do so. We don’t want to go from “sick care” in hospitals to “sick care” in communities. If nurses could order standard blood and other tests and review results, only abnormal findings would be passed to the doctors. After their review nurses and other health care providers could follow up with recommendations. Let’s move toward prevention and management with people taking charge of their own health!

The issues not addressed with my dream system would be isolation and loneliness as people age. This too could be improved within a health care system that looks at the whole person. Paid caregivers could work in the community at centers with activities for seniors such as exercise groups, movie nights, cards nights, pub nights, and group dinners and on and on. A coordinating group could arrange paid for transportation to these late afternoon or early evening activities. This would all cost less than our very expensive “wait to be sick and spend days in hospitals” system.

Am I dreaming?

Comments, suggestions and ideas are welcome.

By Donna Byrne – info@mtltimes.ca
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