Highs and lows in two major reports on BC seniors
Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie has released two comprehensive reports that track the performance of BC’s long term care facilities and monitor seniors services.
They report system improvements as well as continuing gaps in care and services.
The 2020 Long-Term Care Quick Facts Directory (QFD) is the sixth edition of information about long-term care homes available to the public. With the addition of 2019/20 data, improvements continue to be seen with increased funded direct care hours, increased expenditures on food, and increased funded per diems.
However, Mackenzie cautions that “the use of antipsychotics without a diagnosis of psychosis has changed little in the past three years and the use of antidepressant medication is slowly increasing.”
“In other areas, such as the use of therapies, there has been little progress; the percentage of residents receiving physical and occupational therapy has been declining over the last five years. The newly added information about influenza vaccinations shows that the overall uptake among residents and health care workers has declined,” she reports.
The QFD provides an objective, standardized statement for a variety of measures related to quality in BC long-term care homes. “To make meaningful improvements, we need to identify systemic themes and measure progress,” Mackenzie says.
“The QFD provides the health authorities with the ability to achieve this and it is providing openness and transparency to the public, which is the foundation needed for seniors and their loved ones to have confidence in their public long-term care system.”
This Directory requires all care homes to submit and review data and requires staff at the health authorities, the Ministry of Health, the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the BC Centre for Disease Control to provide detailed information.
The 2020 Monitoring Seniors Services report highlights the performance and trends of a wide range of supports and services for BC seniors and their families. “Through comprehensive year-over-year comparison, we can see improvement and gaps in the areas of health care, housing, transportation, income support and personal supports,” the seniors advocate says.
The report highlights the fiscal year 2019/20. Many of the indicators that might be affected by COVID- 19 will not have experienced a significant impact in the reported data as these will be reflected more fully in the 2021 Monitoring Seniors Services report.
“As you read through the report, you will find that we continue to see an increase in our seniors population; however, the proportion of our population aged 75 and older has remained relatively stable for the past 10 years. This suggests that the impact of the boomer generation has not yet been fully reflected in the health care utilization data.
“Our care supports show some bright spots in adult day programs, but we still have challenges in home support utilization, long-term care/assisted living wait times and our alternative level of care metrics.
“Most seniors continue to live in their own homes and, while the property tax deferral program continues to grow in popularity, the affordability for senior renters continues to be a challenge. Most seniors express a strong desire to live in their own homes as they age, and it is key that they have the financial supports necessary to live with dignity.
“We find that most seniors are still active drivers and changes made to the DriveAble component of the medical assessment at age 80 have been positively received. Well over 90 per cent of those who undergo the medical assessment are found fit to continue driving. The chief complaint remains the cost of the medical assessment that seniors are required to pay and the vastly different amounts charged by physicians across the province.
“This year, we presented our PharmaCare data differently and it highlights that seniors or their third- party insurers actually pay the majority of prescription medication costs. While coverage for low income seniors has been enhanced over the past three years, it remains that, through the combination of deductibles and co-payments, seniors are paying just over two-thirds of the total cost for their medications.”
Mackenzie says the Seniors Abuse and Information Line saw a 17 per cent increase in calls related to abuse. “Through data compiled for the Monitoring Seniors Services report we have identified that, overall, we lack good tools for measuring abuse and neglect of seniors. This has led my office to launch a systemic review of abuse and neglect of seniors and we look forward to reporting on this in 2021.”
Low income seniors in BC remain financially challenged, the seniors advocate reports. “One reason is the low amount of $49.30 that is paid through the BC Senior’s Supplement, which has remained unchanged since 1987. As one of the provincial government’s responses to COVID-19, recipients of the senior’s supplement received an additional $300 per month from April to December 2020. It is hoped this will continue past the pandemic.”