Too many vulnerable Canadians are denied home care

Posted on September 15, 2014 in Child & Family Debates – Opinion/Editorials – Statistics Canada has found that an alarming number of Canadians are going without home care or not receiving as much as they need.
Sep 15 2014.    Editorial

It comes as no surprise that people are falling through the cracks in Canada’s home care system. The shock is just how many. According to a new study, more than 790,000 Canadians report that their need for home care is going entirely unmet, or is only being partially addressed.

That’s more than three-quarters of a million people. They are among the most vulnerable members of society: the aged, the disabled, and those suffering from a long-term illness. And their treatment is inexcusable.

The new data comes from Statistics Canada and it specifically excludes residents of institutions and those in long-term care. More than 460,000 people reported needing home care but receiving none. Zero. Another 331,000 ailing and aged Canadians reported getting some assistance, but not the full amount they needed. The system is failing too many people, robbing them of their dignity and exposing them to increased levels of loneliness and stress.

Demand for home care is soaring as hospitals cut costs by discharging patients “sicker and quicker,” sending them home instead of occupying expensive acute care beds. This wouldn’t be a problem if home care services kept pace with rising demand, but that just isn’t happening. People are being sent home to suffer without professional help.

Meanwhile, overall need for home care is set to get a whole lot worse with the number of Canadians 65 and older expected to double over the next 20 years, hitting 30 per cent of the population. Some can expect bigger trouble than others.

Statistics Canada found that the system’s neglect doesn’t hit everyone equally. The agency’s 2012 General Social Survey found that immigrants and people with a household income of less than $20,000 were more likely to report unmet home care needs.

In short, the existing system is chaotic, inadequate, unfair, inequitable and sorely in need of reform.

The situation in Ontario is especially troubling. The province’s 14 Community Care Access Centres act as a gateway to home care. But the Star’s Bob Hepburn reported earlier this year that CEO salaries at these centres have jumped by as much as 144 per cent, with some executives collecting almost $300,000 a year.

About 60 cents of every dollar feeds the CCAC bureaucracy, including rent and other costs. Meanwhile, vulnerable people are going without the home care they need. And front-line workers — those actually helping the aged and ill — remain under-valued, even with a wage hike promised by the province.

Queen’s Park needs to pump more cash into the system, not to fill CEOs’ pockets but to deliver home care where it’s needed. Ottawa could help by drafting a national senior care strategy, guiding investment across Canada in key areas such as home care and support for families helping their aged relatives.

It makes good financial sense to fully fund home care and keep people comfortable — under their own roof and out of hospital — for as long as possible. And beyond dollars and cents, it’s what a compassionate society would do. >

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