Seniors’ advocate office to be opened

Province of B.C. responds to ombudsperson's report on problems and inconsistencies in senior care

Faced with a sweeping report from the B.C. Ombudsperson on problems and inconsistencies in senior care, Health Minister Mike de Jong has launched an effort to simplify the path navigated by families finding health care for the elderly.

Ombudsperson Kim Carter’s new report makes 176 recommendations, including a need to provide clearer information to people seeking a space in a care home or assisted living facility.

De Jong said the health ministry will launch a toll-free phone line by June for people to express concerns about the system. A new seniors’ advocate office is to be established at an unspecified later date.

De Jong agreed with Carter’s finding that it is too difficult for families to find care spaces, and to determine if they are eligible for public subsidies. He also agreed that the government hasn’t sufficiently analyzed its home care support program, which helps keep 90 per cent of B.C. seniors out of care facilities.

The government announced a $15 million budget to expand a pilot program run by the United Way to help people with shopping, gardening, transportation and other non-medical supports so they can stay in their homes.

Other measures are aimed at providing palliative care at home for terminally ill patients. Training for doctors and home health providers is to begin in April, and an after-hours palliative care nursing support phone line is also be established this spring.

De Jong said priority will be given to keeping elderly couples together when they have different health care needs that force them to be separated.

The seniors’ advocate should be able to deal with financial disputes at private care facilities as well as helping seniors find adequate care in the public system, de Jong said.