Alberta faces a significant challenge – our percentage of seniors is growing rapidly, which in turn leads to added stresses and strains on our health care system.
This is not a new phenomenon. We have known for many years that as baby boomers age, we must ensure supports and resources are in place to care for them. And, we have planned accordingly.
In recent days, there has been talk about how Alberta is reducing the number of long-term care beds, or that we are falling short of our target of creating 5,000 new continuing care spaces in the past five years.
The truth is that the Alberta government has indicated the need to maintain long-term care levels at around 14,500 spaces and over the past five years that’s exactly what we’ve done.
By the end of this fiscal year, we’ll have created about 4,100 net new continuing care spaces in the past five years. We acknowledge this is below our target, but we are not standing still. We continue to expand the array of services provided for our growing number of seniors.
One of the biggest difficulties with any discussion about the complex continuing care system is understanding the differences between the various levels of care.
Long-term care uses a more hospital-like model for individuals with complex health needs whose care cannot be safely provided in their own home, or in supportive living.
For people who require a greater level of care than can be provided in the home but still want to maintain their independence as much as possible, there’s supportive living.
These spaces can be at supportive living facilities, lodges, or personal care homes, but the goal is to provide residents the peace of mind and comfort of knowing that care supports are on site when needed.
We know that Albertans want to be involved in their living option choices as they get older, and nearly everyone would prefer to stay at home and independent for as long as possible.
To help them, we’ve dramatically increased home care spending, added adult day program, hospice and restorative care spaces and we will continue to do so.
As our population continues to grow and age, we must provide the right type of care at the right time. As such, most of the recent new spaces are supportive living. This, however, does not stop us from building more long-term care spaces as needed.
We know that we have to care for our patients in the most appropriate setting possible, and we know that that is often not a hospital bed. To that end, you may have read the term “bed blockers” in referring to patients waiting in hospital for a continuing care space.
It’s important to know that this is not a term that we use. They are our patients, and they are Albertans. We must ensure we care for them in the way they deserve and expect.