‘We can do better’: B.C. seniors advocate finds home support out of reach for most

B.C.’s home-support program is unaffordable for the majority of the province’s elderly, according to a new report from the province’s seniors advocate.

The report, titled ‘Home Support: We Can Do Better,’ also found that the program does not offer enough service for high-need seniors, while employing a workforce made up of 75 per cent casual or part-time staff.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said her office gathered data from a survey of clients and family, the Patient Care Quality Office, phone calls and letters and government statistics — and the result was widespread dissatisfaction with the home-care system.

“They are frustrated with a system that is inflexible, insufficient, and too expensive,” Mackenzie said.

About 40,000 seniors in B.C. receive some form of home care, according to Mackenzie, accounting for about $500 million in annual expenditures.

But Mackenzie’s report found that home care was out of reach financially for most of those seniors. Someone with an income of about $28,000 would have to pay $8,800 per year for a daily visit, she said.

It also found that six in 10 seniors who were admitted to long-term care didn’t get any home-care support in the three months prior to admission.

“That is a big red flag,” she said.

“Given that, it’s not surprising that we found 15 to 17 per cent of people currently living in long-term care have care needs that could be met at home. That’s 4,200 long-term care beds that could be freed up, it’s $234 million annually.”

Other key findings in the report were that long-term care is costing taxpayers about $27,000 per year, per senior more than two hours or daily home support would.

It also found that the number of available home-care workers is not growing as fast as the population of seniors and that complaints to the Patient Care Quality Office have climbed by 62 per cent in the last five years.

The report makes seven recommendations, including changing the province’s co-payment structure to increase affordability, developing a flexible, standardized care plan for use throughout the province and providing more support for family caregivers.

Global News has requested comment from the Ministry of Health on the report and recommendations.

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