Ottawa, April 15, 2015—Health care services in Canada will come under strain with an aging population with chronic and degenerative diseases. To address the challenges facing seniors and their care in Canada, a coordinated approach between federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as other key health care stakeholders and communities is needed, according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada released today.
- The strain on health care services in Canada will increase as the number of seniors in Canada is expected to double over the next 25 years from five million to ten million.
- Discrepancies across the country, lack of coordination, restricted access to or narrow eligibility for programs or facilities, and lack of funding for priorities were identified as challenges in health services for seniors.
- A coordinated approach between federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as other key health care stakeholders and communities is needed to address weaknesses in health care services for seniors.
“As the number of seniors in Canada is expected to climb from five million to ten million over the next 25 years, our health care system will result in growth in demand for hospital services, home care, long-term care palliative care facilities and health and wellness programs,” said Dr. Gabriela Prada, Director, Health, Innovation, Policy and Evaluation, The Conference Board of Canada. “Failure to address these growing demands could compromise Canada’s ability to meet the future health needs of seniors.”
“With this groundbreaking study, The Conference Board of Canada has provided a critical assessment of the current state of health care services in our country,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, President of the Canadian Medical Association. “This reality check on where we are today only emphasizes our national imperative to act before the demographic shift gets too far underway.”
Average per capita health care expenditure in Canada increases with every year of life after 65. As frequent users of the health care systems and related facilities, seniors account for approximately 45 per cent of provincial and territorial health care payments.
Although Canada boasts a relatively comprehensive range of services for seniors, there are limitations in these services. The report, Understanding Health and Social Services for Seniors in Canada, identifies key challenges affecting seniors’ health and health care services. They include:
- Lack of timely and equitable access: Seniors have access to a broad array of services covered under the Canada Health Act (CHA) but access is not uniform across Canada.
- Rising rates of dementia: Dementia is a significant and growing problem in Canada. In 2011, almost 750,000 Canadians were living with dementia, and this is set to double by 2031 if nothing changes. The complexity of care required by dementia sufferers is already putting a strain on many areas of the care continuum.
- Restricted funding to support growing seniors’ health needs: In 2014, Canada spent an estimated $215 billion on health care, up 2.1 per cent from the previous year and accounting for 11 per cent of gross domestic product. Economic and demographic conditions will constrain future health care spending.
- Limited senior-friendly mechanisms for redress: A clear and transparent mechanism to address complaints related to seniors care is required but not currently in place nationally.
- Current federal role in key health and social services for seniors: The current role of the federal government is limited in areas that are growing and critical to seniors: home care, long-term care, pharmaceutical care and palliative care. As demographic trends continue to unfold in Canada, there will be a greater need for more federal involvement. To enhance the quality of life of seniors and their families, and reduce health disparities that exist among seniors across Canada, the report calls for a coordinated approach between all levels of government, health care stakeholders and communities.
The report was funded by the Canadian Medical Association and is available free of charge from the Conference Board’s e-Library.
The Conference Board of Canada will be hosting a webinar on May 26, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. looking at Health and Home: An Overview of Senior Care in Canada