For many of us, if we live long enough, there comes a time when we need some kind of ‘assisted living’ accommodation and care. While there are a variety of services available for seniors, there are many people who do not know exactly what our frail and infirm elderly loved ones can expect with regard to ‘assisted living’ options.
We need to become more knowledgeable about available long-term care facilities and services in the private and non-profit sectors. We need to know what options may be available to us. We need to acquire as much information on ‘assisted living’ options, be they short or long-term care, so that we can make informed choices about the kind of long-term care we would like for ourselves and also for elderly members of our family. We also need to consider the affordability of the choice we make. This has particular relevance for those seniors who will have to survive on a modest pension income.
While seniors in higher income brackets can afford private care, seniors surviving on modest pension incomes can only afford services offered by non-profit facilities and home care. Within recent years there have ongoing concerns expressed in the media about the quality of services at non-profit facilities and also the long waiting lists.
Given the fact that both the seniors demographic and life expectancy have been steadily increasing, we cannot ignore how this will impact long-term care. According to Statistics Canada’s publication A Portrait of Seniors in Canada, “the number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million to 9.8 million between 2005 and 2036, and seniors’ share of the population is expected to almost double, increasing from 13.2% to 24.5%”. Will there be sustainable government programs and adequate social services in place to deal with those of modest incomes in this expanding demographic?
Comprehensive information on Long-Term Facilities-Based Care is available from Health Canada. It is specific to “people who require on-site delivery of 24 hour, 7 days a week supervised care, including professional health services, personal care and services such as meals, laundry and housekeeping.” Information on government programs that is specific to a provincial or territorial jurisdiction can be obtained at the appropriate provincial or territorial Ministry of Health since the facilities and services offer will differ. Those of us who are close to that ageing demographic and who have health issues need to take time to educate ourselves about how to live that stage of life in reasonable comfort.
The challenge of educating ourselves is brought to the forefront by Patty Randall of Long Term Care Canada. Based on her own experience with her elderly parents she has provided guidance and tips on managing the challenges associated with ageing. She is “out to educate Canadian boomers and young-seniors on the urgent need to plan for their care-years…while there is still time.” The advice from this advocate is sensible given the continued uncertainty of the world economic situation and the changing demographics. Even though many in the boomer cohort have maintained good health and should enjoy unprecedented longevity there is a need for proper planning if they are to live that vulnerable period of life in comfort and dignity.
We all have to accept that changing statistics will not only impact long-term care facilities and various social services but will place pressures on family members caring for elderly family members. Many family members who are caregivers make sacrifices to take care of the needs of their loved ones. Whether we like to admit it or not most of the elderly population will develop health problems that will probably preclude an independent lifestyle. Most of us have come to accept that the ongoing unstable economic climate will impact our lifestyle irrespective of our age group.
Despite the current economic challenges we must not neglect this vulnerable segment of our society. The elderly in our midst who have contributed much to the growth of our society should not be cast aside with indifference. If we don’t have an adequate long-term care system in place to meet the needs of our expanding elderly population then we have to ask just what kind of a society do we want if we cannot meet the basic needs of the frail and vulnerable. The lesson here for all of us is that while there is still time we all need to make viable plans for that vulnerable stage of life.