Seniors being underserved say Cowichan Valley candidates

Cowichan Valley provincial independent candidate Ian Morrison and his family became responsible for caring for his mother, who had Alzheimer’s, prior to her death.

“Mom certainly wasn’t rich, yet did have enough to afford quality care, with dignity and respect,” Morrison said. “I worry about our elderly residents that don’t have money. Even those fortunate enough to have savings are asking themselves ‘How much is enough?’”

Seniors are the fastest growing group in the Cowichan Valley. Morrison wonders if services meet the needs of seniors today, and will they meet future demands as the elderly population grows?

“Public care services are inadequate and already falling short for those in need,” he said. “Private companies are available, yet most pensioners can’t afford private care? Perhaps volunteers or family and friends can fill in the gaps? My mom’s experience showed we needed all three.”

Morrison said he’s committed to growing public, private and volunteer care services for seniors.

NDP candidate Lori Iannidinardo agrees seniors’ needs are not being met and the current government hasn’t planned for the aging population.

“Most seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible,” she said. “Home care is the most cost-efficient form of elder care, allowing seniors to live healthier and happier lives, yet many can’t access the home care when they need it.”

Iannidinardo said under Christy Clark, “there’s been almost no growth in assisted living or residential care beds in our health region. Wait times are up and many seniors are waiting for care from hospital acute care beds.”

Seniors in residential care aren’t getting the care they need and deserve, she added. “Nine in 10 seniors’ care homes are under-funded and don’t meet provincial staffing levels benchmarks.”

Iannidinardo said an NDP government would work with communities to provide the supports that seniors want, need, and deserve, and would fund them properly.

Liberal candidate Steve Housser said given the aging demographic in the Cowichan Valley “we need to be keenly focused on how to deliver adequate elder care with fewer young people supporting more seniors.”

As with funding for any social program, he said, “it takes a vibrant economy and solid tax base to pay for the elder care our seniors deserve.”

That includes more affordable housing for seniors, expanded Pharmacare coverage, and more residential care beds, Housser noted.

“In the Cowichan Valley there are no dedicated hospice beds,” he said. “This must change. The B.C. Liberal government has just committed $500-million over four years for enhanced seniors care, including more home support. The wait for a residential care bed has gone from two years to 90 days.”

Housser added that the BC Liberals have also appointed the first-ever independent seniors advocate.

“We will continue to make seniors care a high priority,” he said.

Green Party candidate Sonia Furstenau noted access to residential and home care have decreased, facilities are not meeting provincial staffing guidelines, and privatization is increasing while quality of care decreases.

“In our family, the effort to keep aging parents home was borne by children and grandchildren. We were continually frustrated by the inconsistency of support,” she said. “Caregivers were hardworking and did their best, but different faces arriving each time made it impossible to establish relationships, leading to an earlier move into residential care than we wanted — after a lengthy hospital stay for both parents.”

The priority for Greens, Furstenau said, is for seniors to age with dignity and independence.

“Public healthcare needs to be protected, and responsible governance will save money,” she said. “Seniors supported in their homes or in well-run, non-profit residential care is far less costly than seniors ending up in hospitals due to lack of adequate support.”

The privatization of seniors’ care must stop according to independent socialist candidate Eden Haythornthwaite.

“It doesn’t seem to be improving the service at all,” she said. “If you privatize something you have to build in profit. In order to get that profit you have to do three things: you have to degrade the service, you have to degrade the employment conditions and you have to start charging more money to people for it. I just can’t understand why any government would be in favour of these things.”

Haythornthwaite also said housekeeping and food services should be kept in-house instead of being contracted out to multi-nationals.

“There was absolutely no reason to do any of that. The only reason is that it allows people to make money out of a desperate need,” she said. “It’s not like it wasn’t being done properly. We have to end those contracts and prohibit private-profit in seniors residential care.”

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