MP Rachel Blaney heard passionate and emotional stories from the community at Monday’s seniors town hall at the Senior’s Centre in the Campbell River Common.
One woman, whose mother had just passed away after living in a care home for many years said her mother would go a whole day without being changed and that she was fed awful food.
Another woman went so far as to say she would rather push her parents off a balcony than put them in a care home.
On the other side of the spectrum, people talked about how home care isn’t useful anymore because the care workers are so restricted in the care that they can give.
“They come in, give them their medications, heat them up a TV dinner, and go,” one lady said. “How is that helping anyone?”
Or, in some cases, the seniors don’t have a place to call home at all.
“One of the ones I will always carry with me was a gentleman who has worked with homeless people for over 30 years,” Blaney recalled. “He said to me ‘Rachel, in the last year and a half,’ and this was two years ago, ‘I’ve seen seniors coming into my door who are at risk of homelessness and I did not see this before, this is new’.”
Blaney said that, unfortunately, none of these stories are new or unique, she has heard them from all sorts of people all across the riding and that is why the NDP have put forward a motion to develop a national seniors strategy.
“Predictions are that by 2036 more than 1/3 of the population will be seniors,” she said. “We need a national strategy.”
In Blaney’s eyes a national strategy would require the government to work with provincial, territorial and local governments to look at and plan for “what is happening across Canada and what we can do to make sure the lives of seniors are cared for more effectively.”
In her presentation at the town hall, she outlined what she would like to see from the federal government in the coming years.
She and the NDP were pleased with a few minor changes that they saw in the 2016 budget. The age of eligibility for the Old Age Income Supplement was returned to 65 years old. It was increased to 67 years old while the Conservatives were in power. The Guaranteed Income Supplement was also increased by $900 a year for single seniors.
But Blaney said it isn’t enough.
She was saddened by the Liberals when they didn’t follow through on their campaign promise to give $3 billion for home care. She said that when they were questioned about this they said that they just included the increase in the healthcare transfers to the provinces and territories. Blaney said that because there was no strings attached to the money, there was no way of holding the provincial and territorial governments to account and be sure that they used that additional money for home care.
“We are hearing from people that there isn’t any more home care,” she said. “So we know this isn’t happening.”
Changes Blaney would like to see in the healthcare sector include:
- timely and immediate access to healthcare professionals.
- affordable prescription medication for all.
- increased investment in neurological research and a national Alzheimer’s strategy
- ensured training of medical professionals to deal with seniors needs.
- expanded home care for seniors and funding more nursing home beds.
- increased access to end of life care and palliative support.
- expanding eligibility of the compassionate care benefit.
When it comes to housing for seniors Blaney would like to see:
- investment in affordable housing that is targeted to low income seniors.
- flexible housing options so that couples can stay together longer.
- investment into retrofitting homes to meet seniors needs.