Letnick: Gov’t sets out action plan to improve care for the elderly

Last month, the provincial government released a comprehensive report titled Improving Care for B.C. Seniors: An Action Plan.

Last month, the provincial government released a comprehensive report titled Improving Care for B.C. Seniors: An Action Plan.

The government is taking immediate action, making changes to the system of care that will better reflect the needs of our growing seniors population.

I believe this plan presents innovative and viable options for ensuring a more accessible, transparent, and accountable approach to seniors’ care.

The Action Plan is based on the findings and recommendations from a valuable and extensive report on seniors’ care from the provincial Ombudsperson.

As an example of Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to open government, the plan also takes into account both direct and indirect feedback from B.C. seniors and their families and caregivers.

The plan aims to improve the quality of life for B.C. seniors and help them remain independent for as long as possible.

Recommendations are organized into six themes: complaints and concerns, information, standards and quality management, protection, flexible services and modernization.

Some of the recommendations include the creation of a seniors’ advocate and a provincial phone-line to allow seniors and families to report any concerns about care.

Information such as facility inspection reports and eligibility policies will be made more easily accessible and available online.

In addition, community care licensing and enforcement policies will undergo extensive independent reviews.

The province is also providing $15 million for the United Way to expand non-medical home support (such as housekeeping and yard maintenance) for 65 communities across the province, as well as $1.4 million to the B.C. Association of Community Response Networks to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

Seniors, seniors’ issues and seniors’ health care have always been issues of particular importance to me.

I started “Snow Buddies,” a volunteer snow shoveling service for seniors and the disabled, and have been a volunteer driver for seniors’ meal programs.

Before moving to Kelowna, I volunteered in the Banff hospital auxiliary ward to assist with Alzheimer’s patients.

Now, as chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health, one of my foremost goals is determining how we will continue to improve current standards with a growing seniors’ population.

Almost one-sixth of B.C.’s population is over 65 years old, and seniors constitute the fastest growing segment of our population.

Over the past decade, the government has added nearly 6,000 new residential care beds and upgraded over 13,000 more.

In addition, we expanded the range of care options by offering additional assisted living and home support options.

Despite these successes, the government is aware of the need for improvements to the system, particularly in the channels of communication and the quality of care for seniors.

The Action Plan outlines immediate actions for these improvements.

Not only does it focus on improving the system of care, but it also supports healthy aging initiatives to improve the quality of life for all B.C. seniors and help them remain independent for as long as possible.

It offers a holistic model of community health care; one that focuses on healthy living, managing chronic conditions, and providing appropriate care in appropriate settings.

More information about Improving Care for B.C. Seniors: An Action Plan is available at www.seniorsbc.ca.

Norm Letnick is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.