ThoroldNews received the following submission from Doug Rapelje, former director of Regional Social Services and Senior Citizens Department:
For many, they start out a new year with resolutions often hard to keep, or a wish list.
I would like to offer some of the things on my wish list for 2019 that I believe would impact the lives of seniors in a positive way.
Older Canadians are the fasted growing segment of our population with their numbers expected to double over the next two decades so that by then, one in four Canadians will be older than 65 years of age. In order to plan effectively, we need a National Senior Strategy, something many other countries have. Many believe that implementing a National Senior Strategy would provide us with exactly the focus and commitment we need to ensure Canada can become the best country to grow up and old in.
For years, many have advocated for a national and provincial Dementia Strategy that have been implemented elsewhere and are receiving funding. These strategies will focus on the needs of the 402,000 Canadians who are living with Alzheimer’s or some type of dementia and their caregivers, including the more than 10,000 in Niagara. Also, the Alzheimer Society of Canada has introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights For People With Dementia, that will make sure people with dementia know their rights.
It will not be a surprise that I wish for more long-term care beds for Niagara when it is reported there are 2,103 (Dec. 31, 2018) distinct individuals on waiting lists. The province has announced the redevelopment of 30,000 existing long-term care beds by 2025 and 30,000 new beds over the next 10 years.
When announcing the first 5,000 additional new beds, only 147 will be built in Niagara - not much of a dent in the waiting lists. With the redevelopment and new beds, it is important that we introduce innovative physical design to better serve today's residents with more privacy, design for dementia care, hub models, etc. I wish for increased staffing to provide for the changing care needs of today’s residents.
The Premier and Minister of Long Term Care recently announced a $33.6 million investment to build 193 new hospice beds across the province. Niagara needs to advocate for another hospice residence in Niagara to meet the growing need for this important end of life service. Also, our system must provide well coordinated palliative care programs in our hospitals, long-term care facilities, retirement homes and in the community.
Informal caregivers who care for love ones or friends are the unsung heroes in our health system and deserve more recognition and support. In Canada, there are more than 8 million informal caregivers and they save our county between $24 and $31 billion annually in health and other costs. That’s why we need increased funding for home care, programs like Meals-On-Wheels that just celebrated its 50th anniversary in Niagara, transportation, respite services for caregivers; caregiver work leave to support their work, and it is truly unpaid work.
As reported recently, Niagara has an affordable housing crisis that impacts the quality of life for seniors and families. Housing is so basic to our everyday life. Increasing affordable housing needs to be a priority in Niagara. Affordable senior housing options are insufficient, have long waiting lists and do not meet the existing demographic need.
As we look forward to 2019, we need to continue our efforts to make Niagara an age-friendly community - a community for all ages, with strong support from our community leaders. Three Niagara communities were recognized by the province in 2018, with Thorold, St. Catharines and Welland receiving the Age-Friendly Recognition Award. The Age-Friendly Leadership Council initiated the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan that is proving to be an effective planning document, prioritizing the needs of Niagara’s older population and supporting the following vision statement:
“A caring community that optimises opportunities for overall well-being to enhance quality of life as people age.”
So finally, a few more wishes for 2019: that we eliminate ageism, use more technology to benefit seniors, protect pension plans, attract badly needed physicians to Niagara, introduce a universal drug plan, continue to enhance accessibility, give volunteers more recognition, recognize the unique issues and needs of the LGBT community, increasing needed mental health services, promote more learning opportunities, promote healthy aging and give more recognition to the skills, talents and contribution seniors make in our communities.
Michael Jordan puts it this way: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen; others make it happen.”
Let’s make it happen.