Improvements in home support for seniors needed

Ombudsperson's findings reveal systemic challenges in seniors' care 

VANCOUVER, Feb. 15, 2012 /CNW/ - BC Ombudsperson Kim Carter's second report on seniors' care, released yesterday in the Legislature, delivered a strong critique of the government's record on seniors' care and contained recommendations to address the barriers that seniors face in accessing adequate residential care, home support, assisted living, and community care. 

"The BC Ombudsperson's report acknowledges a decade of real challenges for seniors and their families," says president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), Darryl Walker. 

"Many of the challenges result from the lack of integration and coordination of services across all levels of government, as well as a decade of privatization and cuts to health services. The Ombudsperson's report validates the experience of seniors, their families, and their care providers." 

Walker says that Ombudsperson Carter and her team have done an outstanding job looking into the underlying reasons why seniors fail to receive appropriate care. 

"There has never been an investigation of this magnitude in this province. Her recommendations are concrete and we urge the government and health authorities to take action to make significant changes to the way seniors receive care in BC." 

The report, "The Best of Care: Getting it Right for Seniors Part 2", follows three years of investigation into complaints coming from seniors and their families about the range of public care services offered in BC's health care system. The Ombudsperson's first report, released in 2009, contained ten recommendations to improve care for seniors in residential care facilities. 

Yesterday's report contains 176 recommendations related to addressing systemic challenges that are a barrier to seniors' having full access to residential care, home support, assisted living, and community care. 

"The government must act on the recommendations related to public home support," says Carla Dempsey, chair of BCGEU's community health component representing 8500 community health workers, including thousands who work in public home support. 

"It is reassuring to have the Ombudsperson's investigation confirm what we have been saying for years: that current limitations in community health mean many seniors are not getting the support that they need to live well in their homes. We are expected to give more complex care in less time than we did a decade ago. And because of the way the service is designed, many community health workers can't get fixed hours of work, putting real strain on care workers and creating a recruitment and retention problem in this sector," says Dempsey. 

"We welcome the recognition that providing home support usually costs much less than providing care in an assisted living or residential care setting. Expanding the home support program makes fiscal sense - government should do the analysis recommended by the Ombudsperson and invest in providing full and adequate health care in seniors' homes." 

President Walker acknowledged the Minister of Health's announcements of a "Seniors Action Plan", including establishing an Office of the Seniors' Advocate, as well as an expansion of a partnership with the United Way of the Lower Mainland to provide non-medical home support services to seniors in communities across BC.

"It's important that the perspectives of front-line workers in the sector be taken into account in the development of the Seniors Action Plan," says Walker.

"BCGEU is committed to working with government and other agencies to ensure that our seniors and their families get the support and care they need."

BCGEU is BC's third largest health care union, representing over 16,000 members in all sectors of health care in B.C., including community care, home support, long-term care, public health, medical technology, and mental health and addictions services.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Erin Sikora at 778-238-0300

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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