Why should the federal government take an active role in supporting seniors’ care? Because you care.
We should live in a society where seniors live with dignity and comfort in their own home. When a senior moves into long-term care, it should be known as their home, not referred to as a “facility”.
Last year, for the first time in Canadian history, the population aged 65 and older outnumbered those under the age of 14. As the number of seniors and life expectancy in Canada rises, so does the demand for new and more modern care homes — homes that are better equipped to care for people living with dementia. The federal government must do its part.
As a first step, the Canadian Association for Long-Term Care has launched a national campaign to engage with the federal government. We are asking MPs to show their commitment to seniors by taking time out of their schedules to visit a care home in their riding during the week of Feb. 10-16. Constituency weeks are a time away from parliamentary business, where MPs can spend time in their communities. This is a perfect opportunity to visit a care home, spend time with the staff and residents and see first-hand the challenges and opportunities in our long-term care system.
But it’s only a starting point. We also know there are several initiatives that Ottawa can launch to demonstrate leadership and improve the quality of seniors care.
With demand forecasted to grow exponentially for seniors care, it is critical we increase our capacity to train and retain a labour pool available to meet this demand. Care home operators are reporting that our labour supply is at a crisis point. The federal government should address this shortage by developing, in partnership with the sector, a new health human resources strategy to replace the one that’s been collecting dust since 2004.
A new strategy would be more than a document — it would outline a course of action for provinces and territories, ensuring they have adequate and consistent planning and resources in place to support the care needs of our aging population. This would include simple reforms to our immigration policy which result in people being trained to work in seniors care in Canada, but being forced to work in other countries after they graduate.
Further, housing for seniors who require complex care is not considered housing by this government. The federal housing strategy purposely excludes long-term care residences for seniors. But our seniors still require a safe place to live and call home that can provide additional health supports seniors require. We shouldn’t have to split hairs on the federal definition of a home while seniors are in dire need of new long-term care homes. Building new and renovating existing homes should be a priority for the federal government and all major political parties.
Our association has been busy advocating for better seniors’ care in Canada. We are the national voice of care providers, delivering publicly-funded health care services to seniors. We do this because we care about seniors. It is paramount that MPs and the federal government show how they care by making tangible investments and efforts in collaboration with their provincial and territorial partners.
We know Canadians care, Now is the time for MPs to show that they do too.
Daniel Fontaine is the chairman of the Canadian Association for Long Term Care and sits on the ministerial advisory board on dementia.