23 Oct A Brighter Future for Quebec Seniors
During the recent provincial election campaign the CAQ (Coalition Avenir de Québec) leader, François Legault, promised to overhaul Quebec’s entire CHSLD nursing home network and replace it with a series of brand new seniors’ homes.
This past August, Mr. Legault announced his intention, once elected, to create a network of newly built homes to be called “Maisons des Aînés”. He estimated that the project would initially cost $1 billion, with an additional $245 million in annual operating expenses.
This announcement was made in response to recent findings showing many seniors are living in deplorable and unsafe conditions throughout the province wide network of dilapidated CHSLD nursing homes.
There is a stark difference in what is considered as acceptable standards for how seniors live between the private and public sectors. With the second fastest growing population of (older) seniors in the world, we are seeing a rise in the number of large development projects of private senior retirement communities that combine residential units with varying levels, from zero to full care, available. We are frequently exposed to media ad campaigns promoting elegantly appointed private facilities that feature abundant amenities and services that cater to the infinite needs of discerning seniors. This, however, is not indicative of every senior’s reality.
The public sector has fallen far behind in how it cares for those among the most vulnerable in society. Many who are alone with no one to advocate on their behalf, remain in publicly assigned sub-standard facilities fearful to even complain about unfathomable living conditions.
During the summer, while at a campaign stop at the CHSLD in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Legault committed to building 30 of the “Maisons des Aînés” in Quebec during the party’s first mandate, representing 2,600 new places for seniors. If we are looking at a time span of 4 – 5 years, the number of seniors transitioning from their family homes will outpace the projected rate for additional availability of new living units being created. Realizing this, Legault stated that he intended to continue the Liberal government’s previous allotment of $150 million designated for renovation of existing CHSLDs. It’s quite clear to most that this renovation budget is more of a token appeasement than it is a practical solution to combat the level of indignation residents of affected CHSLDs have to endure each day.
Though he said he’ll be subsequently announcing additional measures for seniors living at home who need assistance, Legault also hinted at proposed help coming for caregivers. Apparently, Premier Legault is not familiar with the several “stay at home longer” initiatives, introduced by previous governments, that all failed, miserably. Here is the funny part (and the lead-up to the conclusion of this post).
Legault stated, “Right now a person who goes into a CHSLD costs $86,000 per year
. . . Between $86,000 and zero, there must be a way of helping caregivers help people stay in their homes.”
If the government is willing to spend anywhere close to $86,000 per year for a senior placed in the public system at a CHSLD, regardless the condition of the facility, then why don’t the respective authorities just place seniors in private residences that can be attained, certainly at one third of that amount for assisted living and about two thirds for long term complete care. That’s even before factoring pension and old age security that could be applied to reduce private residence costs. Most seniors acknowledge that the decision to leave the family home comes with the realization that they just cannot be alone and they can’t take care of themselves anymore. Hiring a full time contingent of care givers is cost prohibitive (24 hrs. of care at $15/per hr. comes to $131,400 per year) and the CLHC type of tasked based service providers coming in and out is more frustrating for seniors than it is effective.
The provincial government should consider partnering with the private sector and subcontract the placement of seniors in private residences throughout Québec. This type of solution could prove to be not only the most cost efficient but also most beneficial to older seniors.
It’s really a win win solution that takes into account the best interests of all parties. Private residences are already under supervisory protocols answering to government standards and regular certification inspections. The private sector is better equipped to handle the challenges of providing personalized care and undoubtedly is more responsive to the needs of the residents and their families than any government agency could ever be. Private residences for seniors throughout Quebec comprise the only sector that can legitimately offer our aging population hope for a positive outlook to the future. Our seniors deserve to be treated with dignity with an emphasis placed on the attainment of a high quality of professional care, a healthy living environment, and a set of amenities no less than what we all aspire for ourselves. Time will tell whether our newly elected Premier Legault and the CAQ will remember the campaign promises made to seniors, many of whom deserve so much more than what has been afforded them in the past.