British Columbia

Seniors' home care support in B.C. at breaking point says new report

A new BC Health Coalition report says the number of seniors in B.C. has doubled over the past 12 years — with no increase in home care service levels.

Report says seniors population has doubled over 12 years with no increase in home care service levels

A new report from the BC Health Coalition says it is harder than ever for B.C.'s seniors to access basic home support services. (iStock)

A new report from the BC Health Coalition says home care services for seniors have reached a breaking point in British Columbia.

The study found that the number of people receiving home support in B.C. in 2013-14 was almost exactly the same as those who were receiving it 12 years earlier.

This, despite the fact that, over the course of those 12 years, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of seniors over the age of 65 and a 49 per cent increase in those older than 80.

Marcy Cohen, co-author of the report for the BC Health Coalition and the Integrated Care Advocacy Group, says it's up to the provincial government to pick up the slack.

'There's more leadership, absolutely, needed from the provincial government in saying how those resources are best allocated," she told Rick Cluff on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

Marcy Cohen, author of a new report from the BC Health Coalition, and Florentina Kelly, a home support worker, say the provincial government should invest more in home care supports for seniors. (CBC)

"(Home care support) helps keep people out of hospitals, helps keep people healthy. Everybody knows that seniors are ending up in emergency when they shouldn't."

Cohen added that, because the current system is underfunded and stretched to capacity, case managers are overworked and it has become difficult for them to know each client intimately.

Also, she said, the lack of access means only higher-need patients are receiving home care and that has left seniors with moderate needs out in the cold. 

Cohen argues that is all due to a lack of proactive planning at the provincial level.

The report recommends the provincial government increases funding for home support to allow for an increase in staffing levels, and aligns the home support system with with the latest health care research.

Provincial government responds

In a statement, the provincial Ministry of Health says it is currently looking at how to address current and future health care needs, including the way primary and community care is delivered.

"That is why we released Setting Priorities for the BC Health System, and a series of policy papers, which focus on how we can move away from our dependence on hospitals by building community and primary care capacity, better managing surgical services, revitalizing rural health care and continuing to promote healthy lifestyles," said the statement.

The ministry went on to add that in 2013-14, health authorities reported spending $2.8 billion on home and community care, up $1.2 billion from 2001 — an increase of 79 per cent.

"This includes increased spending on community care services, from $404 million in 2001 to $994 million today — an increase of 146 per cent," said the statement.

To hear the full interview with Marcy Cohen, click the audio labelled: Provincial government failing seniors on home care says new report.

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