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Majority of Canadians fear unhealthy retirement: survey

CALGARY- Baby-boomer Kelly Hess is working to get healthier, taking walks at lunch to try and avoid some of the health problems her 77-year-old mother Jean now faces.

“Right now she lives on her own, but we get support from home care and without that I would be lost,” Hess explains. “They go twice a day. It’s how I know she’s OK, every day.”

Alberta’s health minister says the province has been investing heavily in home care in preparation for a dramatic change in demographics. A large part of the population—baby-boomers—are aging and soon they will need more seniors care.

“We’ve been putting more money into homecare over the last few years,” Minister Fred Horne says. “The Ministry of Health invested about 73 million over the last three years just to strengthen homecare supports in our province.”

Horne adds that the province has also been investing in primary care, but to cope with the demand of an aging population he would support a national strategy.

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The Canadian Medical Association is calling on all levels of government to develop a plan for seniors health care, following the release of a CMA commissioned poll conducted by Ipsos Reid.

The survey found four out of five Canadians are concerned about having access to quality health care in their retirement years. 40 per cent worry hospitals and long term care facilities won’t be able to meet the needs of seniors who can no longer live at home.

“I certainly hope they will,” says Cecile Boehm, a baby-boomer from Calgary. “I know there are a lot more of us aging all at once. I just hope that our health system will be able to handle us when we get there.”

Even though health care falls under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments, the CMA says Ottawa can help with a national strategy.

Association president Dr. Anna Reid says a strategy should tackle four key issues including prescription drug costs and palliative care.

“It also includes a strategy to sort out how we’re going to provide better home care around the country and also a strategy that involves infrastructure funding for long term care facilities,” she explains.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose says she’s open to the idea as long as it doesn’t step on the toes of provincial and territorial governments.

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“As soon as a federal minister says the words ‘national strategy’ a lot of provinces flinch a little, so we don’t talk about these kinds of things until we talk to our colleagues in the provinces and territories,” Ambrose said, following a speech at the Canadian Medical Association’s annual meeting.

Ambrose and Horne will co-chair a panel of experts who will deal with this issue later this fall.

Horne says he hopes governments will be able to work together on a number of fronts.

“We are trying to expand home care, trying to avoid the need for people to seek hospital care and when they do need it trying to get them home sooner.”

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