B.C. seniors in care homes are assessed for their mental and physical ability. (Office of the Seniors Advocate)

Still too many B.C. seniors in care facilities, or at home on drugs

Seniors Advocate watching use of antipsychotics, opioids

B.C. has Canada’s oldest population of seniors still living at home, and more who are in care facilities who would be better supported in their own homes, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says.

Mackenzie released her latest analysis Thursday, showing how B.C. senior care stacks up to the rest of Canada. The latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that while B.C.’s seniors at home are in general healthier than the national average, there are issues around drug use that Mackenzie is monitoring closely.

In home-based care, the use of antipsychotic drugs without a diagnosis calling for them continues to be a problem in B.C. Mackenzie said one in four home care clients is in this position, although the rate has decreased in the past five years.

The rate of antipsychotic prescription for home-based patients is more than 17 per cent above the national average for Canada. The rate has changed little in the past five years, despite Mackenzie’s focus on this problem.

In care facilities, the number of residents reporting daily pain is also on the rise in B.C.

“We need to be cautious around balancing pain control and use of opioid medications,” Mackenzie said.

A likely related issue is that of “caregiver distress,” as family members and others struggle to cope with the needs of seniors with dementia, depression, diabetes and other conditions at home.

“The good news is it has gone down 3.2 per cent, but is still up 34 per cent over five years, the second highest in Canada,” Mackenzie said.

Another theme for the Seniors Advocate office has been the decline in B.C. home care resources to keep seniors at home with adequate supports. Surveys have shown that the vast majority of seniors want to stay in their homes, but they need adequate housekeeping and medical support.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has also been struggling with the deficit in care hours per patient in care homes, which is below the government’s target in many cases.

Mackenzie said the data show people with cognitive and physical ability to be on their own, or in assisted living residences, are in care facilities. If they can get around with a walker and have sufficient mental ability, they should be supported at home, she said.

“Why do we see higher functioning seniors in long-term care,” the report asks.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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