This 5th article in our senior care series focuses on residential care and assisted living.
The average wait to enter residential care varies dramatically depending on where you live — it’s less than three weeks in the Vancouver Coastal region and more than two months in the North, which is generally under-serviced, and on Vancouver Island, where demand is high in popular retirement communities.
“Some people wait an extraordinarily long time for a bed, though generally that is because they have very specific needs,” said Mackenzie, the seniors’ advocate.
Typically, you get sent to the first home with space in your region and must stay there until there is an opening at a place you prefer.
The pressure on existing residential facilities will only get worse. The number of residential care beds — which offer 24-hour medical supervision — went up 1.5 per cent last year, while the population of British Columbians 75 and older rose 3.5 per cent.
All of B.C.’s 27,000 residential care beds are paid for by the government, but about two thirds are run by private companies and faith-based non-profits, while the balance are operated by health authorities.
There are differences between these privately and publicly run facilities, MacKenzie said in her recent report. Homes operated by the health authorities provide, on average, more care hours, have higher rates of therapy, have more complex and physically dependent residents, and have fewer problems and fewer substantiated complaints than contracted facilities.
Only four per cent of private operators meet the goal of 3.36 direct care hours, while one third of the health authority-run facilities meet the target. Although both receive their funding from health authorities, private operators receive less money.
Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, has lobbied for increased funding to the private contractors he represents and said they have started to see new money to hire more staff in the last few months.
Dix said he intends to reach the goal of providing an average of 3.36 care hours a day per resident by 2021, and in order to achieve that funding is now being increased for the private homes.
The biggest challenge to reach this goal will be to find enough new workers to hire. Dix estimates 1,500 new jobs will need to be filled, including 900 care aides and 335 nurses.
Added up, an additional 2.7 million hours of care per year will be needed to ensure that people already living in subsidized residential care facilities are properly looked after, Mackenzie said. This alone would cost about $90 million, and seniors have told her that they want more time from care aides for feeding, toileting and conversations.
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Originally published in The Vancouver Sun
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