As a citizen who is too rapidly approaching my senior years I am more than a little insulted that the general consensus during the election seems to be the best we can do for seniors is to ensure there is a nursing home bed waiting for us.
Seniors health care can be complex and not always amenable to the busy walk-in clinic setting. Have government officials and AHS considered adequately compensating geriatricians or GPs who choose to specialize in geriatrics, taking in to account that intervention with this population is sometimes more time-consuming and requiring co-ordination of a team?
Does the acute care system adequately recognize and treat frailty and fall risk — both of which are major determinants of nursing home admission? Does the Red Deer hospital have a geriatric assessment and rehab unit and do we have adequate physiotherapy available in home care, assisted living and nursing homes to actually make a difference in the safe mobility and quality of life of seniors?
In our rush to empty beds in acute care are we discharging elderly clients too quickly to assisted living and nursing homes without adequate professional support on site? Would seniors be better served by providing them access to an allied health team at home or in a geriatric day program where they can work at their own pace with physiotherapists, dieticians etc.?
Does the Red Deer Primary Care Network have access to rehab professionals who can not only provide early recognition of frailty and fall risk but provide the specific treatment for the mobility issues involved and possibly prevent some of the frequent emergency and acute care readmissions?
Does the government provide funding for nurse practitioners in assisted living and nursing homes?
Our EMS system has almost become a taxi service between these sites and emergency — though both the EMS staff and emergency doctors were always gracious and professional when my mother needed them, in some instances, access to a professional on site may have provided more timely treatment and certainly been less costly than an ambulance trip.
We have specialty clinics for multiple sclerosis, bariatrics, cardiac care, etc., where clients can access several professionals at one time.
I would guess we have more seniors in Red Deer than all the clients in all of the specialty clinics, but have we provided them with an equal service?
There is ample research that proves this is cost effective, improves quality of life for seniors, reduces hospital and nursing home admissions and overall medical care costs.
The School of Public Health at the University of Alberta and the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research state that in 2003 our region had the fourth highest fall-related admission rate in the province, with a cost of $6.2 million dollars, and if unchecked that will rise to $16.5 million by 2033. That is for seniors falls alone!
The province spent $88 million with a projected cost of $250 million by 2033. If we could provide centralized, professional seniors care with an emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation that would support seniors staying in their homes longer, we might reduce EMS calls, reduce time for seniors in emergency, reduce time in acute care — and maybe reduce the need for so many nursing home beds.
I am a licensed physiotherapist working in Red Deer in long-term care but I would like to make it clear that these are my personal comments as a member of the public and are in no way reflective of or connected to my employer.