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B.C. senior home residents staying longer, care hours improving

Physical, recreational therapy declining, drug use up
A music therapy program created for isolated seniors brought a little groove into the lives of White Rock and Surrey care-home residents, including at the Evergreen Baptist campus, Peace Arch Hospital and Kinsmen Lodge, July 2021. (Peace Arch News)

B.C. seniors are staying in long-term care an average of two and a half years, up seven per cent from 2020, and their isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on physical and social activity.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie issued her annual directory of long-term care performance this week, showing that Health Minister Adrian Dix’s goal of bringing publicly funded care homes up to the province’s standard for daily personal care is getting closer.

“As we compare year over year performance, we see continued improvement in direct care hours,” Mackenzie said in releasing the directory Dec. 15. “However, we also see a troubling trend developing in the use of antipsychotic medications. The proportion of residents using antipsychotics without a diagnosis of psychosis increased by eight per cent over the previous year.”

A decline in rates of physical, occupational and recreational therapy did not start with the pandemic and its restrictions on access, but has continued for five years, the report notes. Wait times to get into a facility vary widely across the province, from no wait up to five years or more.

The health ministry’s target of 3.37 hours of direct care per resident per day is being funded for health authority and contracted care homes, and the number of facilities meeting the target increased from 50 to 83 per cent.

The full directory, which compares statistics for 297 care facilities with 27,931 publicly funded beds, with the majority of them operated by contractors funded by a regional health authority.

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