Canadian Medical Association

Canada’s aging population poses significant challenges to physicians and to Canada’s health care system. We surveyed e-Panel members to learn more about their views on the status of seniors care in Canada and what the priorities for a national strategy for seniors should be.

February 2015

Distributed to:
4,232 e-Panel members


Response rate:

Want to share your perspective? Visit the CMA Member Voice e-Panel page for more information on how to participate in future surveys.

As an ER doctor, the elderly patient that I dread is the one who is not sick enough to require an acute medical bed but unsafe to go home because they are unable to care for themselves, because it is next to impossible to set up other options for them. There are so many frail elderly people out there who are one fall away from being unable to care for themselves.

- Member Voice e-Panel respondent

What members said

Impact on physicians and Canada’s health care system

Respondents indicated that they spend large amounts of time and resources on seniors’ care. Specifically, 37% spend more than half their clinical time caring for seniors, while 62% said that they spend time trying to secure support services for seniors.

63% of respondents feel Canada’s health care system is “very unprepared” to deal with the growing seniors population. However, only 12% said they were personally “very unprepared.”

Access to services for seniors

Respondents identified services that were difficult or very difficult for seniors to access:

  • Long-term care (76%)
  • Respite care (66%)
  • Home care (43%)
  • Prevention and wellness (42%)

They also identified services that were accessible or readily accessible to seniors:

  • Hospital care (72%)
  • Primary care (64%)
  • Community supports (62%)
  • Palliative care (55%)

Tools and resources to support an aging population

Respondents suggested a variety of tools and resources that have the potential to improve senior care, including:

  • Technology such as electronic health records, telehealth, home monitoring, deprescribing tools and tools to manage mental decline
  • Risk-stratification tools to help determine what is realistic for seniors care
  • More time and staff to support the care of seniors
  • Better connection to and awareness of community resources
  • Seniors navigators or care coordinators
  • Increased focus on preventative care

Top CMA priorities for a national seniors strategy

We asked respondents about the top-five issues we should prioritize in a national seniors care strategy. The most popular responses were:

  • Support for aging at home (57%)
  • Support for families and caregivers (55%)
  • Innovative models for assisted living in care homes (47%)
  • Dementia strategy (43%)
  • Access/funding for long-term care (37%)

Support for families and caregivers is important, as is navigation assistance/seamless transitions through the health care system. It would be even better to develop the system so it is simple enough and friendly enough not to require much assistance to navigate.

-Member Voice e-Panel respondent

Additional areas for action

Respondents identified a number of other priority issues for a national seniors care strategy:

  • Recognition of the diversity among seniors and strategies to reduce ageism
  • More geriatric specialists and improved integration with primary care
  • Support for seniors who face extra challenges such as a low income, cognitive difficulties, impaired mobility and lack of social support
  • Savings vehicles for health care needs not covered by medicare, including a national pharmacare strategy
  • Age-friendly communities
  • Strategies to discuss and plan for end-of-life care

Seniors cannot be grouped together. There are frail seniors who have very different needs and have the most difficulty accessing any of these services. Can we please use updated views of seniors and stop grouping them as one homogenous mass? Imagine if we took the same approach regarding non-seniors (regardless of comorbidities, mental health, pediatric).

-Member Voice e-Panel respondent

What’s next

The results from this survey informed the CMA Physician Advisory Panel for a National Seniors Strategy about the tools and training physicians need to deliver higher-quality seniors care. The insights gathered will continue to support the CMA’s work on the topic of seniors care.

Other e-Panel survey summaries

See what CMA members had to say about other health topics:

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