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Seniors struggle to navigate health-care system for support
Seniors and their family members are getting lost in the bureaucracy of the health-care system and having difficulty accessing the care and support they need.
They are struggling to get the information, said Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA.
“The problem is there is no central authority,” he said.
Routley was a panelist during an aging and seniors' issues roundtable organized by the NDP Wednesday evening at the Harewood Activity Centre.
Other panelists included: Jean Crowder, Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP; Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog; Kim Slater, vice-chairman of the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils; Ruth Matson, coordinator of the senior peer counselling program for Nanaimo Family Life; and John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner.
Joan Ryan, executive director of the Nanaimo Lifeline Program, said more communication and education is needed to help get health-care information to seniors. More information must be provided to seniors about the differences between types of long-term care and home-care support programs, she said.
“We struggle on ways to get the information to the people who most need the information,” she said, adding that one of the most difficult tasks is communicating with seniors living in isolation.
“They aren’t going online to get information and they don’t have those skills and don’t have computers,” she said.
Matson said about 10 per cent of seniors in Nanaimo require long-term care and the other 90 per cent are struggling to access services to age in their homes. She said more support is needed for outreach programs.
“The other 90 per cent can slip through the cracks as their issues exist below the threshold required to get support from many agencies,” she said. “Many seniors merely cope with shrinking resources and diminishing services while doing their best to age gracefully in place.”
For Nanaimo resident Heather Fredericks, navigating the system to learn about home-care services for her parents has been a time consuming experience and she receives inconsistent information from different government health organizations.
Information must be more easily accessible and clear to gain access to services, she said.
“I need to know how much care is available for my parents,” said Fredericks. “They need to have seniors' care come to them.”
Other forum participants suggested seniors need more affordable housing, improved transportation options, the driver-re-examination test needs to change, medications must be more affordable and the government needs to standardize care in long-term facilities.
Horn said municipalities need to engage community members in planning to create communities that serve seniors’ needs as they age and face situations such as mobility issues.
“We need to look at neighbourhoods and how we can create more density,” he said.
The majority of Nanaimo is built as single-family homes with central malls, instead of local grocery stores and shops serving people’s needs. But as the population continues to age, city layout will be more problematic, Horn said.
More opportunity for input
Community members can provide more input into seniors care in the province at an upcoming discussion this Thursday.
Barry Avis, Parksville-Qualicum NDP candidate, is hosting a public discussion on seniors’ care in B.C. at McGirr Elementary School Thursday (March 29) from 7-9 p.m. Katrine Conroy, Opposition Critic for Seniors’ Care, will also attend. The event will also feature a screening of the documentary The Remaining Light.
Seniors interested in sharing their thoughts about city planning can attend the City of Nanaimo’s Corporate Strategic Plan discussion on Saturday (March 31) from 10 a.m. to noon at Oliver Woods Community Centre. Pre-registration is encouraged. For more information please call 250-755-4406.