Ajax/Pickering: Health care for aging community a growing concern in Ajax, Pickering

Click here to read ‘Health care for aging community a growing concern in Ajax, Pickering‘ by  Kristen Calis – Durham Region.com, September 20, 2015.

AJAX — More long-term care beds available close to home and shorter waiting lists are some of the improvements local residents and health-care workers would like to see as the population ages.

“I’m very interested in our future health-care needs, particularly as a baby boomer — we’re going to flood the system in another five or 10 years,” said Pam Spence, a Pickering resident who attended a town hall meeting held in Ajax on the topic.

In April, Minister of Health and Long Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins created the Scarborough/West Durham panel to develop a plan to address how hospitals in the area can work together to deliver acute health-care programs and services to meet the needs of local residents. The panel is working in conjunction with the Central East Local Health Integration Network.

Residents and health-care professionals gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ajax recently to provide their input as part of community consultations done through an initiative of the Rouge Valley Health System and The Scarborough Hospital.

Four panelists were in attendance at the Ajax meeting, which was led by John Ronson.

“What’s needed, but more importantly, what’s the need going to be tomorrow?” he asked of the group of residents and representatives from various health-care facilities.

After individual reflection and group discussions, a number of concerns were listed, including: timely access to health care in various forms; a shortage of specialists; long waiting lists; a need for more long-term care beds and the ability to access those close by; a lack of integration; a lack of funding; and sometimes duplicates of the same resource that aren’t needed.

“Home care services … are underfunded, inaccessible and have long waiting lists and a lack of co-ordination, resources, good management and funding,” said Ms. Spence, listing one of her concerns.

Ms. Spence is a concierge in the retirement industry, and took part in recent focus groups on end-of-life care as well.

She became involved in Ajax-Pickering Canadian Association of Retired Persons when she experienced difficulties in the health-care system when her mother-in-law was nearing the end of her life.

She said while her mother-in-law’s care was good, she and her husband felt they were involved in a lot of meetings with social workers and health-care professionals and it took up too much time. The process didn’t move forward as quickly as she had expected.

“It consumed a lot of time when we should have been with our loved one helping her with that process,” she said.

She said there needs to be a streamlined, seamless continuum of care that gives patients clear and direct access to care from the first diagnosis through acute care, home-based long-term care, through to palliative care needs.

“I feel patient-centred health care is very important,” she said.

She added palliative care programs that promote team navigation through hospitals, retirement and long-term care residences will help make the process more streamlined.

“I think at times there appears to be a disconnect when people navigate through the system,” she said.

Ms. Spence also wants to see more age-friendly city policies, where structures and environments are in place to enhance quality of life as people age.

Randy Filinski, chairman of Ajax-Pickering CARP, said the group believes end-of-life care is an important issue facing Durham residents. CARP was involved when Rouge Valley hosted public discussions on the topic in late 2014 and continues to study the issue.

“It is resonating, and when you take away the end-of-life discussion, you get down to the role of the caregiver,” Mr. Filinski said.

He said people between 50 and 70 years of age are now caring for their older parents and friends.

“The caregiver has this heavy burden of responsibility of care that the health-care system can’t provide,” he said.

He said this can often cause depression, anxiety and stress.

“We’ve really got to look at caregiver burnout,” he said.

Ms. Spence agrees and feels there must be support for informal caregivers such as family members, who require educational resources, financial support and workplace leave protection.

CARP would like to see a senior care network in Durham to really take care of the frail seniors and their caregivers.

Mr. Filinski said there’s also a need for a focus on dementia care.

“There’s not a lot of education available in Durham until something happens,” he said.

People need to know how to identify Alzheimer’s and dementia, and information on what’s available.

The good news is both two topics are top priorities for funding from the Central East LHIN, he said.

Finally, he said the Province needs to start talking in consumer language and stay away from acronyms.

“For the future of health care, we really have to look at branding or naming conventions for the public that make sense,” he said.

Both Ms. Spence and Mr. Filinski have a good feeling about this exercise, that it will actually make a difference in Durham’s health care.

“I think what they’ve allowed us to do is be on the inside of health care,” he said.

He said in August, the Central East LHIN ran three focus groups on this topic.

“They’re not talking amongst themselves and saying, ‘Now let’s go tell somebody and see what they think,’” he said. “They want to talk to people first and then come up with ideas.”

The panel expects to finish its report in October and will then submit it to the ministry.