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Canadians want a national strategy on seniors care: report

Canadians have voiced overwhelming support for development of a seniors strategy to address the health care needs of our aging population.

That was one of the key findings to emerge from the CMA’s 2014 National Report Card on health issues, which focuses on seniors health issues and the immense impact an aging population will have on the country.

“The impact of seniors on Canada’s health care system can hardly be understated,” says the report, prepared for the CMA by Ipsos Reid following a July 2014 telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians 45 years and older.

For instance, life expectancy in Canada has grown by more than six years since 1979. It now stands at 81.67 years and ranks 14th in the world, and the proportion of seniors has grown from 8% of the population in 1970 to 17.3% in 2014.

The survey showed 95% of respondents support the need for a national strategy for seniors health care. “As the Canadian baby boom generation looks down the road… it sees clearly that Canada desperately needs a seniors strategy, and politicians should pay attention during the next federal election. This should be an issue (those seeking office) would ignore at their own political peril,” CMA President Louis Hugo Francescutti said.

The survey found that most older Canadians (81%) are concerned about the quality of health care they can expect in the future, and 78% are worried about their access to high-quality home and long term care.

However, respondents’ feelings about their own level of preparedness for retirement appear at odds with those concerns. Three-quarters of them expect they will be able to die in dignity in a place of their choosing, and more than two-thirds (69%) expect to leave money or other assets to their survivors. “In light of the high levels of concern expressed elsewhere in the research,” notes the report, “it is tempting to view high levels of confidence in their own planning as wishful thinking.”

The survey also found:

  • The burden of providing care to aging relatives or friends is being “acutely felt” in Canada. More than a quarter of Canadians (26%) now provide such care, and the survey reported that 64% of respondents who provide such care experience a high level of stress because of it. As well, 71% said this responsibility conflicts with their personal life and work.
  • A majority of older Canadians (61%) “lack confidence” that hospitals and long-term care facilities will be able to handle the needs of the country’s elderly; 60% are worried there aren’t enough services to help seniors live longer at home.

“We should not accept that a country as prosperous as Canada has such a large portion of its population living in fear for the future as they age,” said Francescutti. “We need to take immediate action to tackle this issue, and job 1 must be to get a seniors care strategy on each political platform as we approach the 2015 federal election.”

Issues surrounding seniors care, particularly those involving end-of-life care, will be debated during the CMA’s 147th annual meeting, taking place Aug. 17-20 in Ottawa.

The survey results are considered accurate to within +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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