Coalition calls for better seniors care

Times & Transcript November 24, 2012

Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights will present latest report to government in early December


A provincial organization wants the government to better support seniors and the people who help care for them so they can live safely, independently and comfortably in the home of their choice.

Yesterday, the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights released its ‘blue paper,’ A Vision for Change: Aging in Place, focusing on recommendations for Premier David Alward and the Department of Social Development to put into action in addressing senior health-care concerns.

More than 50 seniors and politicians, including Brian Gallant, leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, Dominic Cardy, leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party, Yolande Cyr of the Department of Social Development’s Moncton regional office, Miramichi-Bay du Vin MLA and Opposition critic for seniors Bill Fraser, along with other local MLAs gathered at Peoples Park Tower to hear the contents of the paper, which will be presented to Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé in early December.

Debbie Ellison, president, and Cecile Cassista, executive director, said immediate action is needed to support the aging population, allowing them to live in their homes and communities, not in hospitals.

‘We are talking about a very vulnerable population who deserve to have a voice, particularly when they are often unable to voice their own concerns or to defend their own interests,’ said Ellison.

She focused her speech on four areas of senior care that could be improved: providing for a public home care service, better working conditions for home support workers, protecting assets in nursing care fees and better protection for seniors.

The coalition is calling for a fully funded, accessible public home care service, following models from Manitoba and the federal veterans’ program, both of which assist seniors wanting to remain in their own homes and communities.

There are 57 private agencies in the province, and Ellison said some have recruitment and retention problems, creating constant staff turnover.

The majority of home care workers don’t receive sick leave, employee benefits, pension plans, guaranteed working hours and a small travel allowance (12 cents per kilometre), which doesn’t help attract and retain skilled workers.

With the lack of home care workers and lack of a public care home service, Ellison said, many seniors stay in hospital longer after they’re discharged, when they should be cared for at home.

As of October, 813 seniors were on a nursing home wait list, and 541 of these individuals were in acute hospital beds. There are 117 Moncton seniors on this wait list, with 111 in the city’s acute hospital beds.

Hector Cormier, past president of the coalition, said hospitals are for sick people, not for seniors wanting to live independently. On a recent trip to a hospital he spoke with an elderly lady who said she could no longer walk because she had been bed-ridden for so long.

Along with health issues, Ellison said it would be more economical to financially suppor t home care workers, as seniors using acute hospital beds cost taxpayers, on average, $1,000 per person per day.

Next, Ellison and Cassista changed their focus from living arrangements to the protection of seniors.

The coalition wants the government to establish a Long-Term Care Act that would house all policies affecting seniors, with preventing the seizure of their assets to pay for nursing care on top of the list.

In 2006, the Liberal government changed the policy of nursing care fees to exclude liquidating the assets of residents.

Since the Progressive Conservatives took power, Ellison said daily nursing home fees have increased from $70 per day in 2006 to $101 per day currently, and will rise to $113 per day by April 2014. Special care home fees have been subsidized to $75.50 since April 2012.

Seniors living in nursing homes currently retain $108 per month for their income, while those living in a special home care receive $135 for personal needs.

The coalition recommends the personal allowance of seniors living in both kinds of care be raised to $288 per month.

For their final recommendation, Ellison and Cassista are asking the government to follow-up on promises made during the 2010 election campaign.

They’re asking for an ombudsman to be delegated to monitor nursing and special care homes and home care services as part of a new seniors’ charter of rights.