Canada is getting older. As the population ages, thoughts turn to increasing healthcare needs. One of the needs arising from this reality is a greater demand for long term care.
It’s something the country’s health ministers have in mind. They’re not the only ones concerned either. Ordinary Canadians are trying to raise awareness of the situation and promote solutions where government and public health seem to be stuck.
Numbers Don’t Lie
In 1960, seniors made up just under eight percent of the population. By 2016, however, seniors accounted for more than 16 percent of the population—about double the 1960 number. For the first time in Canadian history, senior citizens outnumber children aged 0 to 14 years.
Why such the huge jump? First, advances in healthcare and living standards mean more Canadians are living longer than ever before. For a child born in the 1930s, the average life expectancy was 60 years for men and 62 years for women. By comparison, a child born in 1960 could expect to live to 68 (men) and 74 (women). A child born today has a life expectancy of 79 (men) and 83 (women).
Another issue is there’s a huge population cohort known as the Baby Boomers. They were born from 1945 until 1960, and they are the single largest demographic in Canadian history. Now, many of them are entering their senior years.
The Canadian healthcare system is faced with the perfect storm: an enormous aging population projected to live longer than any generation before it. This population is also growing faster than any other population segment.
As people age, they tend to develop more health issues. Some people develop terminal diseases, while others face chronic conditions such as deafness and arthritis, which cause impairment and difficulty.
Nonetheless, the fact of the matter remains: Older people need more help. Whether they need 24/7 care or merely a helping hand to assist with day-to-day tasks, older people become more dependent on people around them, including their friends, families, and healthcare workers.
The Issue of Long Term Care
One problem facing long term care is the rise in the number of people who need it. Other factors are cultural. Since most Canadian households are dual-income with two adults working, providing home care for a parent or aging relative becomes very difficult, if not impossible.
More and more, Canadians are looking to the healthcare sector to provide solutions for their loved ones. Seniors who require assistance but can live on their own may benefit from in-home care options. Some seniors may have higher care needs and may not be able to stay in their own homes.
Since there’s a shortage of long term care beds available, however, many Canadian seniors have to endure lengthy waits to be admitted to the care facilities they need. In the meantime, they may need to stay in hospitals, creating a shortage of beds in already overtaxed healthcare institutions. Some may be bounced in and out of hospitals and short-term care facilities.
Seniors who have high need, such as those requiring 24/7 care, often have no choice but to take a bed when it becomes available—no matter where it is. In some cases, this means the older relative is placed at a great distance from families and friends, making it difficult to visit with them.
Solutions on the Horizon
As the crisis in long term care deepens, ordinary Canadians are sounding the alarm and calling for solutions. There are many models to look to across the provinces and throughout the world. It’s a matter of implementing those solutions and soon, so Canadian seniors get prompt access to the care they need, want, and deserve.