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More community support would help people stay out of care homes: seniors advocate

A survey of thousands of seniors in long−term care homes in British Columbia recommends the provincial government increase staff, improve food and boost access to community services so some seniors don’t need to go into care at all.

The report by BC’s seniors advocate says 40% of residents surveyed at almost 300 care homes said they didn’t want to live there, while 60% of those newly admitted said they would have stayed home if they had support services.

A key recommendation in the report from advocate Isobel Mackenzie says the province needs to remove barriers that stop seniors from getting home supports and ensure placement in long−term care comes only when all other options are exhausted.

<who> Photo Credit: Canadian Press

The recommendation to increase staff has been a theme in Mackenzie’s reports since her surveys began in 2016, yet her report says more than half of residents said they were unable to bathe as often as they want and over a third can’t reliably get help to eat their meals.

The national recommendation is 4.1 hours of direct staff care per resident per day, and Mackenzie says that should be followed in BC.

The report says the pandemic increased awareness of conditions in care homes and while the province has increased funding by 45% over the last five years, that hasn’t yet translated to better quality of life for most residents.

A Health Ministry spokesperson said in a statement that the government has invested $2 billion over the past five years to expand and improve the quality of care for seniors in BC.

The statement said they are reviewing the recommendation for 4.1 hours of staff care for each resident per day, "recognizing that a key goal is to stabilize existing staffing by increasing education seats, stabilizing wages and implementing the strategies outlined in our health human resources strategy."

It said that as of April 2022, all 295 publicly funded long−term care facilities in BC were funded to meet a minimum standard of 3.36 hours per resident per day.

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