While Ontarians prepared to go to the polls to elect a new government, CARP was also monitoring the rest of Canada to see how provincial governments are doing on the key seniors’ issues
The NDP 2018 provincial budget included a welcome infusion of $548 million to help bring care levels for seniors up to recommended levels. The government had little choice but to invest in the long-term care sector after a groundbreaking study from the Office of the Seniors Advocate that found serious problems in the B.C. long-term care sector. Of 22,000 residents surveyed in the report:
62 per cent said they do not get to bathe or shower as often as they want
One in four said they sometimes, rarely or never get help to the toilet when needed
More than one-third reported they aren’t consistently getting the help they need at mealtimes
Four out of 10 said they do not want to be there
The budget money will help bring care levels for seniors up to recommended levels. That means 1,500 new jobs – about 900 care aides, 300 licenced practical nurses, 165 registered nurses and other health workers.
In a move that should give beleaguered families more say over the quality of life their loved ones receive in longterm care homes, the Alberta government has passed the Resident and Family Councils Act. The NDP’s new legis- lation, which came into effect this April, guarantees residents and families the rights to establish self-governing councils in long-term care facilities. That means if a home is providing substandard food, services or activities, the law requires them to work with family council to resolve any concerns. The councils are seen as a way residents and their families can feel more involved and in control of their lives. “As government, we completely agree that Albertans should have a voice in these matters,” said Sarah Hoffman, Alberta’s minister of health. CARP members interested in setting up a family or resident council can download a toolkit at open.alberta.ca.
While a surprisingly high number of long-term care residents in Saskatchewan say they are generally satisfied with their home, many expressed concern with specific issues like understaffed homes, access to alternative levels of care, lack of menu choices and aging infrastructure. NDP health critic Danielle Chartier blamed the governing Saskatchewan Party, saying that their “cuts have made it impossible to properly staff long-term care facilities, and both residents and health-care workers are left paying the price.”
While the Progressive Conservative government’s 2018 budget focused heavily on tax and spending
cuts, one bright spot for the elderly or infirm was the reduction in ambulance fees, from $425 to $340.
The Liberal government’s 2018 budget contained several positive changes for informal caregivers (unpaid family members or friends who care for a loved one). The changes include:
reducing the number of hours of services that caregivers must provide in order to qualify for a tax credit
expanding the refundable tax credit for those who renovate their homes so they can age in place and live independently
The Liberal government of New Brunswick used its 2018 budget to invest $100 million to renovate the prov- ince’s care facilities. This will include the building of 10 new homes around the province as well as developing an additional 407 beds for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Prince Edward Island
The province’s 2018 Liberal budget announced measures that should help the 1,000 seniors and families who are on the waiting list for affordable housing. The government announced it will create 1,000 new units over the next two years and will also cover renovations to existing units and rent supports.
Nova Scotia continues to lag behind provinces like B.C. and Ontario when it comes to investing money into long-term care. In 2016, the province chopped one per cent of its long-term care budget forcing homes to reduce food purchases and staffing levels. This prompted Barbara Adams, a CARP Nova Scotia board member, to accuse the government of “attempting to balance the budget on the backs of frail seniors in longterm care.” In 2017, the Liberal government promised a new long-term care strategy but, as of the March 2018 budget, has still not increased funding. “How can [Premier Stephen McNeil] justify not opening a single nursing home bed in this budget when his failure to invest in long-term care has cost our province over this period just short of $1 billion?” asked Gary Burrill, N.S. NDP leader. McNeil’s Liberals are coming under further fire after CBC had to file a freedom of information request to force the government to re- lease its own reports into the widespread physical, emotional and sexual abuse that takes place in provincial homes. In most other provinces, these types of reports are released automatically.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The province’s Liberals used their 2018 budget to focus on home and palliative care. This will see more support for people with dementia, the creation of a province-wide palliative care program with training for clinicians, service providers and caregivers and the Home First Integrated Network, with wraparound services for seniors, and an extension of nursing and other professional services in the community beyond traditional work hours.