‘Seniors care is the paramount health care issue of our time’: CMA president

Watch above: The call is being made to revamp care for Canada’s growing seniors’ population. Vinesh Pratap explains.

EDMONTON – Canada’s health care system is in need of a major overhaul — particularly when it comes to seniors care, according to the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Dr. Chris Simpson started his inaugural speech by citing a recent Commonwealth Fund report that ranked Canada next to last (ahead only of the US) when it comes to the quality of health care. He believes the key to improving the system, is improving the way we care for seniors.

Almost half of Canada’s health care dollars is spent on those aged 65 and over, Simpson explains.

“Looking into the future, how can our resources possibly keep up with the silver tsunami?”

He is especially concerned with where seniors are forced to go for help, suggesting that many are unnecessarily placed in hospitals because there is simply a lack of other options.

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Paula Hayduk of ElderCare Edmonton, which offers day programs to frail seniors, agrees.

“When a senior goes into hospital the resources that should be available to them to go home and back into the community don’t seem to be readily available…to allow that discharge,” she said.

The “warehousing of seniors in hospital beds,” as Simpson calls it, is costing taxpayers $2.3 billion a year. He says the cost of one day in a hospital bed costs $1,000, compared to $130/day for long-term care, and $55/day for home care.

“We believe it is time all levels of government do the math and spend smarter,” Simpson said.

Amy Johnston is grateful that she’s been able to get the help she needs for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s.

“I couldn’t look after him if I didn’t have ElderCare…because my husband’s 86 and I’m 83. I need all the help I can get,” she said, adding that thanks to the support her husband is still able to live at home.

Currently, 15 per cent of Canadians are 65 and over, according to CMA. Over the next 20 years, that number is expected to double.

To help ensure all seniors receive the care they need, Simpson is challenging all federal parties to commit to the development of a national seniors care strategy. He’s not alone.

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READ MORE: Baby boomers calling for national seniors care strategy

“One of the things that impacts seniors’ health hugely is isolation and…depression,” Hayduk said.

“There is really nothing really more isolating and depressing than being in an acute care bed when you don’t have to be.”

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News