This study projected that over the next 20 years Canada’s senior population (75+), a population that relies more heavily on continuing care services, will double in size. What is also expected to grow is the prevalence of chronic conditions and consumer expectations about remaining at home for as long as possible. 6.2 million Canadians are aged 65 and older.

Provinces have many different means for providing services to seniors living in various care settings. Residential care (currently 9% of seniors 75+) is typically the most intensive and expensive. Every province needs alternatives that might prevent having to build significantly more residential care capacity.

Across Canada this study found that 22% of the seniors who entered residential care had low to moderate need to be in that situation and that they might have been well served in home care. Family members who are currently facing decisions about their loved ones already experience some of the factors that the study said influence admission to residential care. These are:

  • the need for physical assistance,
  • cognitive impairment,
  • wandering,
  • living alone, and
  • having a caregiver who is currently unable to continue providing care.

The expected increased demand for residential care can be offset by homecare agencies such as Partners for Home which was created to provide families with help in these specific areas.

As it turns out, seniors who receive their initial assessment while in hospital are much more likely to be referred to residential care than those who are assessed in the community. The study suggests that the policies that have been created to facilitate timely discharges from hospitals may have unintended consequences, resulting in early admission to residential care.

On July 11, the Winnipeg Free Press noted that while “the percentage of seniors who could have delayed or avoided entering a nursing home climbed to 30% across all jurisdictions studied”, in Manitoba it was 47%. While Manitoba has a great home care program, it has even more room for improvement than the average of all jurisdictions that were studied.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority responded in part by declaring “we know that ensuring appropriate supports for seniors in the community helps them sustain a higher quality of life, avoid unnecessary hospital stays and delay, or even avoid, long-term care placement.”

Family members need to be aware these opportunities exist.