The COVID-19 pandemic revealed longstanding shortcomings in the way Canada supports and provides care for older adults.
After decades of chronic underfunding and understaffing, long-term care organizations across the country were too often unpreparedClose to 70% of Canada’s COVID-19 fatalities have occurred in long-term care.1 for a crisis of this magnitude, which left residents and staff vulnerable to COVID-19 and its impacts.
The pandemic also underscored the critical role caregivers play in providing care to older adults. Spouses, children, friends, and neighbours often act as essential partners in care where services are inadequate, inaccessible, or out of reach – geographically and financially.
Canadian seniors are increasingly fearful that they will not have the supports they need to live a dignified life independently, or in a care setting. All levels of government owe it to our older adult population to shore up resources to meet the challenges of Canada’s growing and aging population.
What actions can Canada take to support better aging and older adult care?
Create communities that allow adults to age in place and address the social determinants of health, such as housing, transportation, and nutrition, that affect healthy aging.
Develop a national approach to support better aging and improve health and social services for older Canadians, backed by substantial investments to meet the current and future needs of Canada’s aging population.
A dedicated federal transfer to improve long-term care and home care supports for aging in place.
Implement federal legislation and standards specific to the long-term care sector.
Shift to providing more home and community care.
Increase staffing and improve working conditions in long-term care and home care organizations.
Increase funding in research and innovation related to aging to deliver concrete improvements in older adult care.
Provide better financial and social supports for unpaid caregivers.
Why must Canada support better aging and older adult care?
Life expectancy in Canada is risingBy 2030, an anticipated 1 in 5 Canadians will be 65 years and older, according to a CanAge publication from August 2020 titled VOICES of Canada’s seniors: a roadmap to an age-inclusive Canada., and people across Canada can expect to live longer, better lives, but with that longevity comes increased chance of developing chronic health issues, many of which require more complex health and social services. Many older adults want to age at home, in their communities, but Canada’s infrastructure is not set up to meet their needs and accommodate them as they age.
Furthermore, unpaid caregivers, who often act as essential partners in care where services are inadequate, inaccessible, or out of reach, are saving the health system an estimated $9 billion a year and personally incurring an estimated $33 billion in direct and indirect costs2 – such as out-of-pocket expenses, lost productivityThe estimated cost to the Canadian economy from lost productivity is 1.3 billion per year. 3, and forgone vacation time – annually.
There must be fundamental transformation to reimagine older adult care in this country and better support Canada’s caregivers.
Creating communities that allow adults to age in place will:
Allow older adults to live a more independent, active, and dignified life.
Address the social determinants of health that affect healthy aging.
Combat loneliness among older adults.
Fill gaps that exist between home and long-term care.
Decrease demand on acute care resources.
% of Canadians aged 65+ who say they will do everything possible to avoid a stay in LTC