'Simply not enough hands on deck': services not keeping up with demand from seniors

While the number of seniors is growing, vital services like housing support are not keeping up with demand, a new report by Office of the Seniors Advocate found.

New report highlights housing challenges for seniors

The population of seniors who need additional support is growing at a faster rate than the services, leaving some people falling through the cracks. (CBC News)

In British Columbia, there are nearly 900,000 people age 65 and over and that number is only expected to increase in the coming years.

While the number of seniors is growing, vital services such as housing support are not keeping up with demand, a new report by Office of the Seniors Advocate found.

Since last year, that has been an increase in demand for assisted living units, residential care beds and in-home support.

In each case, the report noted, the population of seniors has increased at a faster rate than the housing options and wait lists are growing longer.  

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees Union, said the root of the problem is a lack of support and staffing.

"There are simply not enough hands on deck, not enough staff, to make sure that seniors are getting the care that they need when they need it," Whiteside told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.

Urgent need

Earlier this year, the provincial government promised $500 million over the next four years to improve care for seniors.

This would allow more staff to be hired and three hours of daily direct care to seniors in public and private residential care facilities.

"We absolutely need that to happen urgently," Whiteside said.

Not having enough staff means that patients are rushed through their daily routines of getting ready for the day or having a meal, Whiteside said. In some cases, it means not having flexibility with bathing or showering times. 

"Work loads are extreme," she said. "Those routines are really rushed."

It also means longer waits for care. The report noted that 15 per cent of seniors living in residential care could live in the community with proper supports.

"We need to deal with the crisis that is in front of us right now," Whiteside said. "There has been a real underfunding and a real lack of attention to this sector over the last 16 years and the current government is having to play a lot of catch up."

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

While the number of seniors is growing, vital services like housing support are not keeping up with demand, a new report by Office of the Seniors Advocate found. 7:34

With files from The Early Edition.