Keeping frail seniors at home has been a priority of B.C. health ministers for years, but delivery of home care and day activity programs to support that declined in 2018, B.C.’s Seniors Advocate says.
The number of seniors receiving home support services decreased by 1.4 per cent, despite a four per cent increase in the B.C. population over 65 and a five per cent increase in those over 85, according to the latest senior services monitoring report, released Wednesday.
Adult day program access also declined by six per cent in 2018, adding up to a 17 per cent drop in program days delivered in the past two years. “Not surprisingly, there is a 23 per cent increase in the wait list,” the report says.
“The ability to live as independently as possible for as long as possible depends on a number of key factors,” Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said. “Appropriate housing, sufficient income, adequate transportation, accessible health care and assistance with personal needs must all be available if seniors are to live safely and with dignity.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix added $75 million to the budget for respite care and adult day programs last year, in an effort to ease the pressure on family members supporting seniors in their homes.
“The reduction in home support clients is puzzling, as we should be seeing those numbers increase,” Mackenzie said.
Rising housing costs have also made it more difficult for seniors to remain at home. Property tax deferrals have risen by 53 per cent in the past four years, with more than 57,000 seniors deferring taxes in 2017-18 and more than $200 million in property taxes paid to municipalities by the province to date.
For seniors who rent, there was a seven per cent increase in use of rent subsidies through the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program, and a 34 per cent increase in the total subsidies paid.
For seniors who need residential care, the average waiting time has improved, with 71 per cent getting admitted to a care facility within 30 days. But the rate varies between regional health authorities, with a low of 45 per cent for Island Health and a high of 90 per cent for the Vancouver Coastal health region.