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Caregivers need a seniors strategy, CMA tells premiers

Canada’s premiers must acknowledge the need for a national seniors strategy both for the sake of the economy and to better support the growing number of family members looking after aging relatives.

This was the message CMA President Dr. Chris Simpson delivered in a news release as provincial and territorial premiers prepared to meet as the Council of the Federation.

In the release, Simpson said the CMA was delighted that not only the economy but Canada’s aging population were on the meeting agenda because health and the economy are interrelated.

“It is clear that without a national strategy for seniors, the economic impact will be massive, ” Dr. Simpson said. “For these reasons, not only should health and seniors ministers pay attention to this but so too should finance ministers and prime ministers.

But he added: “Let me be clear: money alone will not address the needs of our seniors and the support they and their families need. These resources need to support a strategy built on a national vision for the prevention, the wellness and the care our seniors deserve,”

The CMA referenced a recently released report from The Mental Health Commission of Canada documenting that many family caregivers are currently experiencing extreme stress and also noting that the demands on these caregivers will multiply as the population ages.

In calling for a national strategy, Simpson reiterated the fact that on any given day about 15% of Canadian hospital beds are occupied by seniors with no place to go because long-term facilities and home care services are unavailable, resulting in cancelled surgeries and emergency patients being stuck on gurneys waiting for acute care beds.

In support of this message, the CMA released a video in which Simpson set the stage for the premiers meeting and the need to address seniors care.

“When I became CMA president last August I said fixing seniors care will go a long way to fix the entire health care system. I’m still saying this every chance I get,” he said.

In the video, Simpson made the link between the pressing economic issues facing the premiers and the issue of seniors care by noting physicians believe “quality health care is good for the economy.”

With the 65-plus age group accounting for more than 60% of health costs, Simpson said “it is in everyone’s interest that we learn to spend smarter for the sake of our personal and fiscal health.

In both the news release and the video, Simpson stated that a national seniors strategy involving all levels of government would be the best way to establish the right level of funding to ensure proper programs are in place to support the aging population.”

The CMA and its partners have set three main campaign goals for dealing with seniors care.

  • To have all major political parties commit to a national seniors strategy involving all levels of government with Ottawa taking the lead role.
  • To have whichever party forms the next federal government bring together the provincial and territorial premiers to discuss seniors care, within six months of the 2015 federal election.
  • And ultimately, for Canada to have a national seniors strategy in place by 2019.

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