Monday, 3 February 2014
Yesterday, Sunday February 2, 2014, I was a guest caller on CBC Radio's Cross Country Check Up with Rex Murphy. The tragedy in Quebec last month was the basis of the topic, "Are Seniors in Canada getting the standard of Care they Need?". The entire show can be heard in the podcast at http://www.cbc.ca/checkup/index.html . In preparing for this interview, I was struck by several questions and not nearly enough answers. How can we prevent this tragedy from happening again? Where else are there gaps in protecting seniors? Are current regulations enough to keep people in this vulnerable segment of society safe? There are most definitely gaps and areas for improvement but the question of where we need to do better rests with an "it depends" statement. It depends, where in Canada you live, what you need and how much money you have. Because we lack a National Policy on Seniors Care in Canada, every province makes their own decisions on how much regulation is necessary. Even when it comes to sprinklers apparently, provinces decide despite a fairly loose national policy. Regulation for retirement homes is not mandatory across Canada and there is a huge gap in our system where the private sector 'picks up the slack' so people who can afford extra service and care can receive it. For those who cannot, we watch and worry. Or, do we simply close our eyes so we won't see? Do we even know how many people we are talking about? Or how many more we will have that will 'fall between the cracks' as the years pass? Yes, there is more that can be done. We need more funding for homecare so people can remain in their own homes as long as they wish, perhaps we need more long-term care homes, so less people sit in hospital waiting for care they need, we need a better, workable Aging in Place Strategy, we need more education on options and better organization of information on existing supports, we need more support for caregivers, we need government funded retirement homes, we need to raise pension rates so seniors are not forced to live on under $13,000/year. We need to learn from tragedies like L'Isle-Verte and ensure that seniors do not die horrible deaths from preventable events.