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Advocate says more than brick and mortar solutions needed when it comes to facilities
The provincial government announced a slew of initiatives – and touted capital projects already in progress – aimed at seniors last month, and while some are pleased with the progress, others feel the plans do not go far enough.
The Advocates for Senior Citizens Rights handed over a petition with some 6,500 signatures to NDP leader Lorraine Michael and independent Mount Pearl-Southlands MHA Paul Lane at Confederation building, Nov. 5, pushing for the improved care of patients living in long-term care facilities.
The aim is to seek the implementation of Lillian’s Law, which calls for a minimum 3-1 resident to staff ratio at long-term facilities.
The proposed law is named after the mother of founder Sharon Goulding-Collins, who is currently in a long-term care facility in Gander. Goulding-Collins took up the cause of trying to improve senior care after noticing her mother had been scratched and bruised as a result of falling and altercations.
She says there needs to be more than a brick and mortar approach to care when it comes to facilities.
“It has to be more than about adding beds,” she said. “It’s about providing a quality of living.”
In the announcement, released Oct. 29, the Department of Health and Community Services reiterated its investment of four new long-term care facilities in Newfoundland, and an expansion of the protective care unit in Botwood.
But Goulding-Collins says the care of patients is just as important as adding beds, and that Lillian’s Law could help provide balance, as it would allow for better care, to assist with falls, hygiene, and intervention in the event of altercations.
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Beyond the institutions under construction, the health department announced programming aimed at keeping seniors in their homes longer. These include the establishment of regional health authority networks, needs assessments, developing residential hospice care services, and looking into the needs for personal care home beds. The province is also working on a home dementia program, along with having a financial assessment process for those entering long-term care.
More than 19 per cent of the province’s population is over the age of 65. Within the next 10 years, the province estimated that number will grow to 27 per cent.
With an aging population on the rise, Delores Jones, NL 50+ Federation director for Area 5 – Gander – Fogo Island, said the province has a big task in trying to develop senior care.
While she agrees with helping seniors to stay in their own homes longer, her advice to both the federal and provincial government is to make it affordable.
“Seniors that have been retired for a number of years, their pensions haven’t been adjusted to reflect inflation,” she said. “Our oil bill has doubled over the last few years, but our income hasn’t doubled. So you have to cut corners somewhere.”
Having to balance bills and medication, without an additional income support, Jones said, could push seniors into long-term care faster.
“You have to make sure they have sufficient funds to meet their daily needs.”