Enhanced home care the most effective way to help seniors
The following is commentary from People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin which appeared in The Daily Gleaner on Tuesday March 28th, 2017
On January 17 The Council on Aging chaired by two distinguished individuals released a report detailing some key thoughts and ideas on how government can best assist citizens in their senior years. “An Aging Strategy For New Brunswick” touched on many aspects of how seniors can stay connected to the local community, healthcare and dementia, as well as the overall demographic shift New Brunswick faces. Across the country, seniors make up for approx. 16.5% of the population, whereas in our little province that number increases significantly to 19.5%. If the current trend continues, that number will explode to 31.3% by 2038. By the current projection, the population in New Brunswick will be one third seniors in 20 years. That fact alone should be an eyeopener, considering the framework needed within the system to sustain that portion of the demographic. Couple that with a continuous outflow of young workers and families, and the future of New Brunswick is in a very precarious situation.
It comes as no surprise that the majority of seniors want an independent lifestyle that include staying in their own home for as long as possible. I believe to make that possible government action is required. For example, the program that offers seniors a matching grant for necessary upgrades to their home to avoid accidents and offer safety and convenience is a good step. Secondly, a greater focus on in-home help is necessary. New Brunswick currently has many local service to seniors organizations who will come to the residence to clean, cook, and assist seniors who need a little extra help. However, many of these organizations struggle with retaining employees due to the cost of certification and low wages. For example, the average cost to have proper training to be a home support worker is over $1100, and for many employees this cost is not covered by the province or the organization in which they are employed. Think about it, an individual looking for work in helping seniors starts out at $12/hr and is immediately required to be trained at a cost of $1100. Once they have completed and paid for their training their wage is then bumped to approx. $13/hr in most cases, yet with no guarantee of full time hours. No wonder these organizations struggle to recruit and retain workers.
So the question remains. Is it beneficial to push seniors out of their homes and into institutions? Or is it better to adequately pay home support workers and allow seniors to stay in their homes (at a fraction of the cost to government)? The People’s Alliance is committed to enhancing senior care through local organizations who do the day to day work of caring for seniors in their home. More funding and resources to these programs can ultimately give seniors the dignity and independence they desire, and save an enormous amount of money.
These things are only a fraction of what the report outlined. It also went on to discuss age friendly communities, technology enablement, access to care and services, etc. Committees like these are launched with a defined mandate to offer efficient and effective solutions to our most challenging problems. Yet more often than not they end up in the great warehouse of reports and studies collecting dust.