With just over a week before the Nova Scotia provincial election, there is a sense of urgency for the 50-plus members of the Continuing Care Association of Nova Scotia to be heard.
Their voices rise up in support of their clients, families and caregiving staff who try to rationalize two years’ of provincial budget cuts to long-term care and their devastating impact. Clearly we are at a crossroads. Consider this latest information from Census Canada and the Conference Board of Canada:
-“Census data showed that, for the first time ever, seniors now outnumber children in Canada.
-The Future Care for Canadian Seniors series estimates that 2.4 million Canadians age 65+ will require paid and unpaid continuing care supports by 2026. By 2046, this number will reach nearly 3.3 million.
-Spending on continuing care for seniors is forecast to increase from $28.3 billion in 2011 to $177.3 billion in 2046.
-A necessary shift from acute to home, community, and longterm care will also put pressure on existing institutional infrastructure and on caregivers who must reduce their work hours or leave the workforce.”
As we talk with our members and live the day-to-day realities of working in long-term care, we see staff and volunteers doing amazing things despite a desperate lack of resources. Although families help where and when they can and entire communities rally to fund raise, their efforts are not enough to keep pace with the growing complexity of care, research, equipment and infrastructure required for our clients amid reduced budgets.
The reality is that budget reductions have made it increasingly difficult to maintain facilities, replace both small and large equipment, and invest in new technologies and innovations to prepare for the future.
Enhancing Home Care services has allowed people to stay in their homes longer. While this is an essential aspect of the healthcare continuum, it means that people are moving into longterm care later. They arrive with more complex health issues and needing a higher level of care than ever before.
Facilities are challenged to sustain a high standard of care in the midst of rising costs for fundamental expenses such as electricity, fuel and food.
As it stands Nova Scotia’s long-term care sector is unsustainable. As the level of care needs increase and the cost of operating the facilities increases, facilities will not be able to operate within the allotted budgets. As more and more facilities find themselves facing deficits, a negative impact on clients and staff will sadly be inevitable.
We ask that you share this information with your colleagues and friends. And when a candidate comes knocking, ask them about their plans to address our province’s long-term care needs now and into the future. Ask them if they’ll reinstate the $8.2 million in funding cuts. Ask them if they will engage your local nursing home in discussions about their financial, human and infrastructure needs and then act on those discussions. Michael Walsh Berwick (President, Continuing Care Association of Nova Scotia)