Ask a Doctor: Canadian Medical Association’s National Report Card on Seniors Health Care

Since 2001, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been polling a representative sample of Canadians on the care they are receiving and on various key aspects of the healthcare system. The Association’s 2013 National Report Card was just released to hundreds of physician delegates from across the country who converged on Calgary on the occasion of the CMA’s 146th annual meeting.

Between July 17th and July 26th 2013, Ipsos Reid surveyed a national sample of 1,000 Canadian adults (18 and over) over the phone using random digit dialing equipment. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.1% at a 95% confidence level.

I thought sharing the results with you would be timely and of great importance since this year’s report placed a special emphasis on seniors’ care. In this article I will be quoting excerpts from both an August 19th  write-up on Canadian Healthcare by Medical Post editor-in-chief Colin Leslie, as well as excerpts from the actual CMA report card.

Questions and evaluative statements were included about each type of seniors’ health care. Before the participants were asked questions, a description of the types of care covered by “seniors’ care” in the context of the survey was read to them as follows: Health care for seniors involves three distinct types of care. These include home and community care, which is designed to help seniors live at home longer; care provided in institutions such as hospitals and long-term care facilities; and, end-of-life care, which is designed to make a person’s final days and weeks as comfortable as possible.

Without further ado, let’s look at the survey results:

  • Nine in ten Canadians believe that Canada needs a national seniors’ care strategy and that adopting such stratagem would improve the entire health care system.
  • Over four in five believe that seniors consume more health care than younger Canadians do.
  • Most Canadians see seniors’ care as a national problem requiring cooperation among governments – and agree that the federal government has an important role to play in the strategy.
  • Most Canadians lack confidence that enough services exist to help seniors live at home longer or that hospitals and long-term facilities can handle the demand for care. Confidence in the current system’s ability to handle the needs of seniors is lowest among those who are responsible for supporting and caring for other adults outside their home, and among those approaching retirement age (55 to 65).
  • Only in Quebec does a majority believe that hospitals and long-term care facilities in their area are sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly population.
  • Three in five Canadians say they will need to rely on a public system for home or long-term care in their retirement years.
  • Half of Canadians are “very” concerned about maintaining their health in retirement, while over three in four are concerned about access to acute and home care. Overall, there is a high level of concern among Canadians about their personal preparations for their retirement years – being most concerned with maintaining their health (83% agree), and having adequate finances in their retirement years, it is still significant – with seven in ten (71%) been concerned.
  • Most Canadians (81%) think that a focus on home care is a step in the right direction.
  • When it comes to care for seniors, most Canadians select home and community care as top priority, above care in facilities or end-of-life care.
  • In developing a national seniors’ health care strategy, majorities emphasize the importance of home- and community-based care. This is also true for end-of-life care, with 57% assigning a very high priority to care provided at home versus care provided in hospitals, hospices, etc.

“The results of this year’s CMA report card send a clear and direct message to policy-makers and public office holders that all levels of government need to act to address the demographic tsunami that is heading toward the health-care system,” said CMA president Dr. Anna Reid in a press release. “The anxiety Canadians have about health care in their so-called golden years is both real and well founded,” Dr. Reid added. “Let there be no doubt that a national strategy for seniors health care should be a federal priority.”


Angela Mailis Gagnon, MD, MSc, FRCPC(PhysMed)

Director, Comprehensive Pain Program,

Senior Investigator, Krembil Neuroscience Centre

Toronto Western Hospital,

Chair ACTION Ontario