Ottawa and Alberta sign $627M deal to help seniors ‘age with dignity’

Click to play video: 'Feds, province sign $627M agreement for Alberta seniors’ care'
Feds, province sign $627M agreement for Alberta seniors’ care
The federal government and province are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on seniors' care in Alberta. Ministers say a new agreement between Ottawa and Alberta will improve the quality of care seniors receive. Erik Bay reports. – May 23, 2024

People are living longer but with more complex health-care needs, so more funding is being put toward seniors care ahead of an expected surge in demand.

The federal government and the province of Alberta have signed a $627-million funding agreement they say will help seniors better age with dignity.

“We owe seniors the society that we have right now,” Edmonton MP and federal Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault said on Thursday, sharing how his elderly mother, like many other seniors, insists on aging in her own Edmonton-area home for as long as possible.

“After a lifetime of work, giving back and caring about others in their communities, the least seniors deserve is the ability to age with dignity and to not worry about what’s next.”

The bilateral Aging with Dignity agreement will see $627 million spent over the next five years on what the province said will support home care and continuing care home initiatives.

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“We need to support Albertans to safely remain as independent and as active as possible and in the communities where they live, surrounded by the additional support of family, friends, community and familiar places,” said Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange.

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Right now, one in seven Albertans are 65 or older. By 2046, the province expects that will narrow it one in five, with Albertans over 65 making up more than 1.2 million of the total population.

That will have a huge impact not just in big cities, but in rural areas across Alberta, where LaGrange said people are closely connected to their community and want to stay.

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“How do we make sure that there are supports in place? How do we make sure that the infrastructure is there? Those are the things that we are tackling,” she said.

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The province predicts the need for continuing care will increase even faster due to people living longer and with more complex needs — resulting in an 80 per cent projected increase in demand for continuing care over the next 10 years.

“Many of us just don’t have the luxury of ageing with ultimately the best health possible to be able to stay in our own homes,” said federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu when speaking about the need for high-quality care facilities.

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Home care initiatives under the plan announced Thursday will include enhancing home care services, improving access to palliative and end-of-life care, increasing support for caregivers, and expanding non-medical supports, the province said in a news release.

It also said the continuing care home initiatives will include supporting quality of life best practices in home care and continuing care homes, expanding continuing care workforce education, training and development opportunities, providing workforce mental health supports, and enhancing compliance and monitoring capacity for continuing care homes.

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“We know through our learnings from COVID, that we need to provide these additional resources and supports in these different types of facilities,” LaGrange said.

Hajdu agreed there were valuable lessons learned during the pandemic, which wreaked havoc on seniors’ homes and supportive living facilities, about the need for more resources.

“We all love our elders and so today’s announcement is actually about bringing this to life, putting the resources behind the actual tools that we need, which is people,” Hajdu said.

Health Canada said the plan will:

Support home, community, and palliative care services  

  • Improve home care services for all Albertans, particularly those in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, and including those with complex care needs, to reduce pressures on hospitals and emergency rooms.
  • Increase palliative and end-of-life care spaces and services, including coordination of care, psychosocial supports, complex symptom assessment and management, and end-of-life planning.

Expand caregiver supports

  • Improve support for caregivers through increased access to respite services and expanded community day programs, and expand the reach of caregiver supports in rural Alberta.
  • Offer tailored resources and programs to those who care for individuals with dementia and complex needs to support caregiver wellness.

Strengthen the continuing care workforce

  • Increase training and mental health support for continuing care staff, including psychosocial supports, peer support programming, and trauma-informed care training.
  • Increase recruitment and retention in difficult-to-recruit continuing care sites, programs, and positions in rural and remote areas.

Enhance compliance and improved quality of continuing care

  • Support quality of life and care best practices, including a trauma-informed and culturally safe approach to care to better address the needs of those served by continuing care.
  • Retrofit equipment and technology in continuing care homes to support client and resident care needs and accessibility to meaningful activities.
  • Improve compliance and monitoring of continuing care homes to deliver high quality and safe continuing care services.

Health Canada said the Aging with Dignity funding builds on the over $1-billion bilateral agreement that was announced with the province back in December, as part of the federal government’s Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians plan.

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Alberta’s government has committed over three years to transform continuing care.

“The work underway will shift continuing care to communities where clients live closer to their home, providing increased access to a wider range of health and personal services and supports, particularly in rural communities,” LaGrange said.

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