Cuts to seniors' home care, is this the best we can do?

Reported in Today's Sun: "89 home care workers lose their jobs in Vancouver." *

Census data tells us that B.C.'s population is ageing faster than the rest of Canada — at 15.7% of the population, we are a full percentage point above the national average. Seven out of the ten municipalities with the highest proportion of persons over 65 are in our province. 

While that trend isn't duplicated in Metro, here in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant we have some 6,500 seniors — 13% of the population. Seniors are overall the fastest growing age-group in Canada — and that population is expected to double over the next 25 years.

We also know that quality home care administered by our public health authorities helps to keep our seniors out of (more expensive) institutional care. Furthermore, for all but the most expensive care facillites there is a waiting list, so in many cases home care is the only option. 

According to the BC Seniors Advocate one-third of caregivers (typically family members) are in distress — overwhelmed with work, other family commitments and the duty of elderly care.

In light of the above, Vancouver Coastal Health's decision to lay-off home-care service providers and turn over everything but medical home care to volunteers and family members seems very short sighted. 

British Columbians deserve clarity and accountability with regard to Coastal Health's strategic direction. We saw that disconnect from the public planning process while their Second Generation strategy was crafted for the DTES, concurrently with yet independently of the City's DTES Local Area Plan. One of the unfortunate results of that disconnect was VCH pulling funding for the innovative, peer-run Gallery Gachet.

Can we accommodate our future elderly care needs with a network of volunteers and family members? How best can we keep seniors healthy, engaged and out of assisted living? Elder abuse, unfortunately is a sad reality particularly prevalent among overstressed family care givers — in the absence of professional oversight for all but medical care or assisted living — are we doing the best to protect our seniors? 

Thanks to the BCGEU for shining a light on these home care cuts: they are rallying today, noon at 8th and Hemlock.

Photo and original story reported in Vancouver Sun, October 15, 2015
89 home care workers lose their jobs in Vancouver