CARP attended several events recently, mainly on the topics of health and aging. Below are summaries are CARP’s participation at a Statistics Canada event on Aging and Health and Toronto Board of Trade event on the Ontario Seniors’ Strategy. In addition to these events, the Ontario Association Community Care Access Centres is producing a four-part series of discussion papers, called Health Comes Home, and the first paper, Health Comes Home, Part 1: A Conversation about the Future of Care, and second paper, Health Comes Home, Part 2: A Conversation about Aging and Chronic Care, was released recently. Both addresses the big questions around the future delivery of health care and discuss the role of home and community care in improving outcomes.
CARP at Statistics Canada’s Event on Aging and Health: Data Reveal Where Change is Needed
High quality data and analysis is crucial in making effective public policies and especially in addressing complex demographic trends and needs. Statistics Canada’s Chief Statistician delivered a presentation on Aging and Health in Canada earlier in November that revealed important statistics about Canada’s health trends. A panel of health professionals and policy makers, including CARP’s Susan Eng, discussed the implications for health and social policy. CARP stressed the necessary changes that are needed, not only to save costs but also to improve the health and lives of seniors.
Statistic Canada’s presentation pointed to the mismatch in what the system currently provides and what Canadians need. Unless this changes, costs will continue to rise unsustainably. The key trends that Statistics Canada revealed that included:
- The number of seniors will double by 2031: In 2011, there were 5 million people aged 65 and over, and it is projected to grow to 10 million people by 2013. This means, in about 20 years, the population of 65 and over will make up 23% of the population from its current 14.4%. Health providers and formal caregivers are also aging – currently 1 in 4 formal caregivers that visit homes are over the age of 55, according to the Statistic Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The health system not only needs to consider the aging population but also the need for more health providers as they also age.
- Chronic conditions and frailty on the rise: Chronic conditions and frailty are likely to also rise as the aging population increases. According to the 2009-2010 Canadian Community Health Survey, 1 in 4 individuals 65 years old and over were considered frail. When considered frail, individuals are most likely unable to adapt and/or recover after an acute illness or injuries, which means they will most likely depend on costly institutional care in the absence of adequate home care alternatives.
- Cost of institutional care is rising. According to Statistics Canada’s institutional care data, the number of beds and residents are increasing in Canada along with the expenditure per resident and the level of care they are receiving. In contrast, only 1 in 4 Canadians over 65 receive homecare, but majority of the care is provided informally.
All is not a loss – Canada can do much better
The panelists highlighted how the data clearly shows the direction the health care system needs to take to improve the health of Canadians. There is less need for acute care but a greater need for chronic care through home care and long-term care. However, to be truly beneficial, home care and long-term care needs to be well supported with informal care supports and healthy lifestyle choices.
CARP has been long calling for these changes. Susan Eng reiterated on the panel that most Canadians do not want to age in hospitals or long-term care homes but want to remain in their homes. The good news is that it costs a fraction of care provided in an institution. As a result, the healthcare system should reallocate its resources towards homecare. CARP has also been calling for greater financial and social supports for informal caregivers. In Canada, as Statistics Canada has shown, most of the care at home is provided informally by family and friends. Informal caregivers often have to leave the workforce to provide care in addition to dealing with the emotional, mental, and physical stress of providing care. Informal caregivers are often also older in age, dealing with their own health concerns, so it is vital that the necessary supports are provided. These are opportunities to change the course of Canada’s health care system. With such changes, Canada can do much better at improving the health of Canadians both cost-effectively and sustainably.
Read CARP’s One Patient to learn more about CARP’s recommendations on health care reform.
CARP at Toronto Region Board of Trade Event on Ontario’s Senior’s Strategy
CARP’s Susan Eng spoke at a Toronto Regional Board of Trade event on the Ontario’s Senior’s Strategy with Minister Deb Matthews, geriatrician and expert lead of the Senior’s Strategy, Dr. Samir Sinha, and BMO Financial Group’s Head of Human Resources, Richard Rudderham. The speakers discussed the changing nature of Ontario’s aging society and the implications for the workplace and our health and social care systems as well as the role that all sectors have in ensuring a strong and sustainable Ontario.
CARP emphasized the need for investments to be made that reflect the changing needs of the population, especially in areas such as homecare, tele-health, and support for informal caregivers. As much as CARP calls for these changes in the health system, CARP also calls for the private sector to recognize its role to support the health of its employees. As more people take on informal care responsibilities, employers can have an important role in allow flexibility in work arrangements to allow their employees to meet health and care needs.