B.C. has pledged $500 million over four years for seniors funding, and Delta North MLA Scott Hamilton said that means more Delta seniors will be able to grow old at home.
The funding, announced on March 9, sets aside $275 million for home and community care. This money will go towards expanded home support services and hours, as well as increased home health monitoring.
“We have a lot of seniors in Delta, particular a lot of seniors in Delta who want to age in place,” Hamilton said. “They want to stay in their own homes but they need a little extra support.”
Of course, that’s not always possible.
“Most of us will live our lives at home, not in residential care, with usually not a lot of supports,” said Kay Dennison, coordinator for the Delta Seniors Planning Team and advisor for the B.C. Seniors Advocate. “We’ll stay at home and spend the last few weeks of our life in the hospital and die.
“But for those that will need that kind of care, it’s very very difficult for families to care for people at home.”
That care can also be expensive and time-consuming for families; often when a senior needs a high level of care, they move into residential homes.
“It’s important to be able to invest in those opportunities to allow people to stay in [their homes] longer,” Hamilton said.
His mother is 89 and still lives alone in her five-bedroom house. “If mum wound up having to go to an extended care facility, it’s going to end up costing the province a lot more money.”
In essence, the $275 million over four years is preventative money, helping people stay out of residential care and in their own homes for longer. The rest of the money, and a big part of the B.C. Liberals messaging, is focused on residential care homes.
The goal is to get the number of direct care hours for each resident up to 3.36 hours per day. In January 2016, the provincial average was 3.11 care hours per resident according to the province’s Residential Care Staffing Review.
That 3.11 average, however, doesn’t reflect the reality for many care homes around the province. Around 80 per cent of residential care facilities operate below the 3.36 care hours per resident threshold, and many of those are providing less than three care hours per resident.
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Four of Delta’s six residential care homes are below the province’s goal. Northcrest Care Centre in North Delta is at 3.24 care hours per resident per day, West Shore Laylum Rest Home in Ladner is at 2.63, Delta View Life Enrichment Centre off of Highway 99 is at 3.13 and KinVillage West Court in Tsawwassen is at 2.89.
Only Mountainview Manor is operating above the standard, at 3.49 care hours per resident per day.
Information on Delta View Habilitation Centre care hours was not available.
For Delta North NDP candidate Ravi Kahlon, that’s not good enough.
“These are minimum standards we’re talking about,” he said. “The government has set legislation in place for all the homes to fit a basic minimum standard, and they can’t even reach [it].”
It’s hard to pinpoint the real difference these care hours make just from looking at the numbers. But in residential homes, even a small change in the care hours a senior receives makes a big difference. In facilities with harried staff, getting residents to the bathroom can be a struggle. Bathing residents more than once a week often doesn’t happen.
“They’re often put into incontinent underwear because [the nurses] know they can’t get them to the bathroom so they’re going to have to use a Depends,” Dennison said. “That should never happen, but it does.”
“That is why these hours need to be improved.”
The provincial funding will be used in part to hire an additional 1,500 health-care assistants, nurses and physiotherapists over four years. This will improve the hours by giving each staff member more time to spend with the residents.
Importantly, the extra time isn’t just about providing care to seniors, Dennison said.
It’s about letting them enjoy life by giving residents and staff that extra half hour to go outside and get a coffee from the shop or making it possible for couples to find some private time to be intimate.
“We see the other part. The medical care, giving food, taking care of them in all those other ways,” she said. “But we don’t stop to think about how it is as a human being, and how you are as a young person is no different when you’re up in your 80s and 90s.”
The provincial funding could help seniors enjoy life and get the medical care they need, Dennison said, but it’s not enough.
“[It’s] never enough. But at least they’ve started to recognize how serious the situation is.”