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Physician panel helping guide CMA seniors care initiative

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has convened a physician advisory panel on seniors care to help advance its multi-year strategic initiative on promoting healthy aging.

The panel – with expert representation from across Canada – met recently, in the face of the imminent crisis facing seniors care in this country. Advocating for development and implementation of a national seniors care strategy is a high priority for the CMA and core to the association’s current advocacy activities.

“This is something we are committed to over the long term,” said CMA President-elect Cindy Forbes in her introduction at the meeting.

Panel members are:

  • Dr. Howard Bergman — chair, department of family medicine, McGill University, Montreal
  • Dr. David Henderson — Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians
  • Dr. Ralph Jones — director of two residential care homes, Chilliwack Division of Family Practice
  • Dr. Isra Levy — Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa
  • Dr. Frank Molnar – Canadian Geriatrics Society
  • Dr. Jasneet Parmar — associate professor, department of family medicine, University of Alberta; medical director, Covenant Health Network of Excellence in Seniors Health and Wellness
  • Dr. Samir Sinha — director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network hospitals in Toronto, expert lead for Ontario's seniors care strategy
  • Bryce Durafourt — fourth-year medical student at McGill University and president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students

Also participating are elected CMA officials led by Forbes and senior CMA staff including Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism.

“We’re looking at a two-pronged approach — what can we do nationally to support other organizations as a whole to enhance seniors care, and what can physicians and the CMA accomplish that will really make a difference,” said Forbes.

The CMA has been meeting with a wide spectrum of stakeholder groups to identify principles that should underpin a seniors strategy, as well as defining key issues and challenges.

In a facilitated session, the physician panel commented on the broader seniors strategy and set priorities for where the CMA should focus its attention. The panel was provided some guidance with results from a recent CMA Member e-Panel survey asking members about their views on seniors care.

Themes across the care continuum that have been identified by stakeholders as being important are: quality of life, social determinants of health, family caregiver support, senior-friendly communities, access, integrated models of care, appropriate use of financial resources, health human resources, quality improvement and accountability and seniors’ mental health.

Panel members engaged in discussions about the relative importance of these themes and potential reframing to better reflect certain concerns such as the need to differentiate dementia from general seniors mental health.

The panel suggested tools and resources that would help physicians provide better care for seniors, and provided input on plans for sessions on seniors care at the CMA General Council taking place in Halifax in August.

More education for medical students, physicians and other health care providers to help them provide better care for their older patients was supported by all panel members, especially around geriatrics, advance directives and palliative and end-of-life care. The need to better educate elderly patients and their families about issues associated with aging was also noted.

Suggestions were also made for activities the CMA could undertake in this area, ranging from more research to caregiver support. “We have to deal with where to put our time, energy and resources,” said Forbes.

In addition to the panel’s work and the stakeholder initiative, the CMA has sponsored – and continues to sponsor – a number of roundtable discussions on seniors care across the country.

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