BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Spring 2021
Annual report shows some gains but also
highlights need for further improvement
By Isobel Mackenzie, BC Seniors Advocate
The 2020 Monitoring Seniors Services report highlights the performance and trends of a wide range of supports and services for B.C. seniors and their families. Through comprehensive yearover- year comparison, we can see improvement and gaps in the areas of health care, housing, transportation, income support and personal supports.
The report highlights the fiscal year 2019/20. Many of the indicators that might be affected by COVID- 19 will not have experienced a significant impact in the reported data as these will be reflected more fully in the 2021 Monitoring Seniors Services report.
As you read through the report, you will find that we continue to see an increase in our seniors population; however, the proportion of our population aged 75 and older has remained relatively stable for the past ten years. This suggests that the impact of the boomer generation has not yet been fully reflected in the health care utilization data.
Our care supports show some bright spots in adult day programs, but we still have challenges in home support utilization, long-term care/ assisted living wait times and our alternative level of care (ALC) metrics. Most seniors continue to live in their own homes and, while the property tax deferral program continues to grow in popularity, the affordability for senior renters continues to be a challenge. Most seniors express a strong desire to live in their own homes as they age, and it is key that they have the financial supports necessary to live with dignity.
We find that most seniors are still active drivers and changes made to the DriveAble component of the medical assessment at age 80 have been positively received. Well over 90% of those who undergo the medical assessment are found fit to continue driving. The chief complaint remains the cost of the medical assessment that seniors are required to pay and the vastly different amounts charged by physicians across the province.
This year, we presented our PharmaCare data differently and it highlights that seniors or their third-party insurers actually pay the majority of prescription medication costs. While coverage for low income seniors has been enhanced over the past three years, it remains that, through the combination of deductibles and co-payments, seniors are paying just over two-thirds of the total cost for their medications.
This year, the Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL) saw a 17% increase in calls related to abuse. Through data compiled for the Monitoring Seniors Services report we have identified that, overall, we lack good tools for measuring abuse and neglect of seniors. This has led my office to launch a systemic review of abuse and neglect of seniors and we look forward to reporting on this in 2021.
Low income seniors in B.C. remain financially challenged. One reason is the low amount of $49.30 that is paid through the B.C. Senior’s Supplement, which has remained unchanged since 1987. As one of the provincial government’s responses to COVID-19, recipients of the senior’s supplement received an additional $300 per month from April to December 2020. It is hoped this will continue past the pandemic.
As we closed out the 2019/20 year, we saw the launch of the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities initiative to support seniors living in the community. This was a significant enhancement to the Better at Home Program and bc211. The impact of this program will be detailed in our 2021 report. Similarly, there were significant investments made in longterm care at the end of the 2019/2020 year and the impact of those initiatives as they relate to the long-term indicators will be reported in the next year as well.
As always, in reading this report, we are reminded of the significant number of supports and services that are available to B.C. seniors. The challenge is to ensure these are reaching the people who need them and that they are effective. If we all remain committed to ensuring that B.C. seniors are supported through the aging process with a focus on independence, dignity and compassion, we will achieve our goal of aging well.
The full report, from which this excerpt is taken, is available for download at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca.