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Politically Better Solutions, Caring for Aging

If the pandemic has taught us anything, we have learned about years of neglect, defunding, abuse and mismanagement of our seniors, chronic care patients, even their caregivers at the hands of our elected politicians, in the case of public health and private for-profit long-term care corporations.

Report[i] after report[ii], funded by these same entities, highlight all the deficiencies and provide solid, proven remedies to correct the situation. But is anyone listening? Whistleblower complaints with explicit evidence of neglect and abuse always seem to make it to the Press, but nothing seems to change.

The Long Term Care Association of Manitoba recently published a press release highlighting the problems at a local residence, with application across Canada.

“Over 81% of Covid-19 deaths in Canada have been in long term care.”

We know what needs to be done to fix this situation. What we need are the balls to act. We need our politicians to act.

Canada spends 11.2% of its GDP on healthcare, among the top 4 in the world. Denmark spends about the same proportion, 11.1%. Where they spend this money is a major difference.

  • In Canada (21,293 deaths), 85% of healthcare dollars goes to institutions. Only 15% is allocated to homecare.
  • In Denmark (2,301 deaths), 85% of healthcare dollars goes to homecare. Only 15% is allocated to institutions.
  • The Covid-19 death rate/million in Denmark is 32% lower than Canada. (by comparison, the death rate/million in the privately-funded, for-profit USA is 265% higher than Canada)

Given all the major reports and studies in existence, along with real-time data collection, we can readily see that more needs to be done in Canada, with great urgency. So, how can we wake up our politicians to this reality? I contend that we simply need to show them a few key facts about our rapidly aging population.

25% of our population are aged 65 or older. In total, there are over 9 million seniors in Canada. These seniors are vibrant part of society. Most (80%) are active, still working, healthy, spending money and paying taxes. Guess what? These same seniors can vote. Do you want their vote?

18 million Canadians voted in the last federal election. Would any political party be open to securing 7.2 million seniors’ votes? Of course! How about announcing major enhancements to address the expert-reported results form the last 10 or so research reports on the subject? How about providing better programs, care and funding for our seniors.

People who have spent their life contributing and building our society should be respected and properly cared for. The people who care for these seniors need to be respected, well-paid and cared for themselves. The vast majority of caregivers in Canada are unpaid! Read the reports again. Review the science. Listen to the experts. Let us help all Canadians look forward to a healthy and happy future.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government was the first to receive the report[iii], said, “I was sad. I was shocked. I was disappointed. I was angry. I believe we are talking about a situation that clearly is a reality associated with COVID-19 but has also existed for quite some time. We need to take action as a country.”

While Canada’s overall COVID-19 mortality rate was relatively low compared with the rates in other OECD countries, it had the highest proportion of deaths occurring in long-term care[iv]. Health care in Canada is primarily the responsibility of each provincial health authority. Surely a federal mandate can improve and standardize care across Canada, for all Canadians.

An Early Start

Before the pandemic, the Quebec government announced[v] a major shift in spending and increased budget ($1B annually for 5 years) for improved healthcare in Quebec. While major areas were targeted with these fixes, within less than a year the COVID-19 pandemic hit us all.

Older Quebecers will be the major beneficiaries as the Coalition Avenir Québec government, fulfilling election promises, announced on Thursday it will spend an additional $5 billion on health and social services over the next five years. Just over half of that is for seniors.

One of the priciest measures announced Thursday involves in-home care — assistance for seniors so they can remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Services include nursing care, nutrition planning and help with hygiene, dressing and eating.

We need more visionaries. We need politicians who act. We need media to highlight the “good” as well as the “bad”. Remember Pavlov’s dogs experiment? Let’s educate our politicians and reward them when they succeed.

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