Beyond the immediate threat of COVID-19 to B.C. seniors, some indicators of their overall health are improving as the number of baby boomers entering their retirement years continues to grow.
As demand for care continues to rise and the options for seniors to socialize and exercise have been reduced or eliminated, what remains to be seen is how severe the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be.
The survey shows there was a four per cent increase in the number of B.C. residents aged 65 and older, continuing a trend that has seen a 27 per cent increase in the past 10 years. The vast majority, 94 per cent, continue to live independently in their own homes, with three per cent in long-term care and three per cent in assisted living, a rate that has remained stable for the past five years.
The latest survey data are for the 2019-20 year ended in March, contained in the latest Monitoring Senior Services report produced annually by the office of B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. Before the pandemic disrupted senior care operations and the rest of the world economy, the rising number of seniors needing care was already stretching resources and wait times.
The number of long-term care beds per thousand population aged 85 and up has decreased nine per cent in the past five years, with a 27 per cent increase in seniors on the wait list. The average wait time for admission to a facility was 52 days, and the number admitted within 30 days dropped by 11 per cent.
Health Minister Adrian Dix’s emphasis on reaching the provincial target of 3.36 hours a day of care has shown significant results, with the number of long-term care facilities funded to meet the target rising from 30 to 50 per cent compared to the previous year. All facilities owned by regional health authorities met the target, but only 22 per cent of contract facilities had met the goal in 2019-20.
The survey is released annually along with the Long-term Care Quick Facts Directory, used by families looking for senior care and evaluating each provincial facility. The latest survey shows progress made in reducing falls with injury in publicly funded facilities, but little progress made in reducing the use of anti-psychotic drugs, which Mackenzie has identified as too high.
There was also a 17 per cent increase in substantiated complaints related to the province’s licensing regulations for senior facilities, which are reported in the directory in greater detail this year.