Health Reform 2021


Seniors advocates believe 'aging in place' plan is achievable

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, is calling for more support to allow seniors stay in their homes longer.

The New Brunswick government's plan to help seniors live in their own homes will be a huge step forward, according to Cecile Cassista.

The Coalition for Seniors executive director said she finds it alarming that seniors stay in nursing homes at an average of 2.8 years longer than any other province.

"We have always been promoting home care. I think the home care case has been broken, and it needs to be revamped, not patched. People want to live in their community and their environment," said Cassista.

She said the problem stems from seniors resisting getting medical attention so when they reach the point they need health care they end up in hospital.

"We should have more clinics. What we have in New Brunswick are after hour clinics, clinics where you need to make an appointment. What we need are clinics where seniors can go in and get their X-rays," she said.

New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard has promised a doctor for everyone in the province, be it virtual or otherwise.

Last week, when the provincial government unveiled its five-year provincial health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action, several details were outlined to support seniors to age in place.

These included expanding Extra-Mural Program services and leveraging technology to enable seniors to live independently for as long as possible. Ensuring seniors have the resources, programming and care available where they live to reduce capacity in the hospital system, Shephard said.

Cassista said services need to be improved to better allow seniors to stay in their homes.

"The system is not really user-friendly. There needs to be a simplified brochure that shows the steps and conditions they need to meet. I get a lot of calls from seniors who don't know the system. It is very complex," she said. 

She said she is encouraged by what the government has unfolded and is also pleased to see the use of the Extra-Mural Program services to allow seniors to have followup appointments with social workers without leaving their homes.

"As an advocate I am going to keep on top of this. I don't believe it is just a paper document that is out there. I believe it is sincere, well-thought-out and achievable," said Cassista.

Miramichi Seniors Coalition chair Claude Stewart said there is also a need for more incentives to keep seniors in their homes.

"Even if they were staying in their own home, there should be concessions for property taxes for one thing. There is some there for low income seniors, but they should abolish taxes for seniors on a fixed income, period."

Stewart said unless better systems are put in place, many seniors won't be able to stay in their homes regardless of desire.

"I don't see how seniors would be able to stay in their own home as the cost of living and inflation continues to rise. They almost have no choice but to go into a seniors home," said Stewart adding, "it would be much economical to keep them in their own home."