Saskatoon

Keeping seniors out of hospital best way to stretch health money, service group says

Earlier this week, the federal government and Saskatchewan announced a partnership for federal health funding. And a group that provides services for seniors says the best way to stretch that money is to keep people out of long-term care and hospitals and in their own homes for as long as possible.

Saskatoon Services for Seniors says costs are 'huge' when seniors enter hospital unnecessarily

Rather than admit to family some tasks cannot be done any more, seniors might prefer to have someone else come in and offer their assistance, says Saskatoon Services for Seniors vice-president Muriel Baxter (left). (CBC News)

Earlier this week, the federal government and Saskatchewan announced a partnership for federal health funding. And a group that provides services for seniors says the best way to stretch that money is to keep people out of long-term care and hospitals and in their own homes for as long as possible.

According to Saskatoon Services for Seniors — an organization which connects seniors and low-income citizens with helpful services — one in four people over the age of 65 struggle with daily tasks such as sweeping floors or changing light bulbs.

While those may seem like simple tasks, if a senior falls while carrying them out and requires medical attention, then health costs rise.

Muriel Baxter, vice-president of the group, said the costs of having someone do yard work and minor repairs for those who require the assistance still have to be paid, usually by the seniors themselves. 

"It's a tough thing to accept, of course," Baxter said. "We all hate to have losses in our lives and losses in our ability but it's also an issue of appearing to maintain independence."

Muriel Baxter is the vice-president of Saskatoon Services for Seniors, which connects seniors and low-income citizens with people who will do chores such as yard work, housekeeping or minor repairs. (CBC News)
Baxter said seniors might prefer to have someone come in and complete those tasks rather than ask a family member for help. She argues using the federal money on those preventive costs instead will save millions of dollars for the province in the long run.

Cheryl Loadman, executive director of  Saskatoon Services for Seniors, said seniors tend to stay in the health system longer once they are admitted. 

"I think there's a greater appreciation that being inside the health system or inside that institutional long term care environment isn't the best way to care for people who are aging," Loadman told CBC Radio's Blue Sky

"We know, without question, when a senior goes into the health system unnecessarily, the daily costs to the taxpayers are huge."

The organization intersects where the private industry is not able to respond, Loadman said. Approximately 3,000 seniors have approached Saskatoon Services for Seniors for assistance, and the group says that number is growing.

The agreement reached with the federal government this week will see Saskatchewan receive nearly $349 million dollars over a decade for mental health and home care. More than $190 million of that will be earmarked for home care.

Health officials say the federal money must also help those with disabilities, living with low income or struggling with mental health.

With files from Jennifer Quesnel and CBC Radio's Blue Sky

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