Accessing help for seniors is complicated, exhausting and arduous. It has been likened to wackamo, the game where you whack down one thing and another jumps up. I would concur.
I rarely got two answers the same from the professionals. The best information I received was from other caregivers…..those who had already negotiated our fragmented and convoluted system. Even the services we discovered for my in-laws weren’t always available or housed in the same department when my parents needed just them four year later.
The pandemic highlighted the deep chasms in the way we care for seniors. This was no surprise to those who have tried to navigate the system.
Over the years reports have been written outlining the fact that a different kind of support is needed for our seniors. Those costly reports sit on a shelf. There are no deliverable actions attached to the recommendations. There are no timelines for making the changes and there are no consequences for ignoring the recommendations.
Not one decision-maker takes responsibly to change what they know is not working. Most seniors continue to receive deplorable care. The only ones who do not are the ones who have a dedicated volunteer person or team constantly monitoring their situation.
On paper, it looks like there are lots of services and supports for seniors, in real life this is not the case. Unless you hire a concierge or have a dedicated volunteer coordinator constantly monitoring, tweaking and advocating, your supports and services collapse.
Aging is not a stagnant process; therefore supports and services must be continually adapted to ever changing needs of those who are at this stage.
Even with my determination and knowledge, there were many days I couldn’t make sense of what I was hearing or pinpoint where to find the answer. As with most caregivers I became frustrated. I often felt defeated and hopeless. And with competing demands for my time, I became exhausted.
It’s my opinion that seniors don’t need healthcare. We need specialized aged care. Instead of trying to fix our body parts, the focus should be on how we can still live a good quality of life with the parts we have. Bring the services to us. Mobility is often an issue in accessing supports.
Don’t stick us in large institutions that are patterned after the penal system. Care for us in smaller settings and as much as possible, let us age in place. Focus on preventative care.
We know it is more cost-effective to keep us in our homes. Right now the fragmented services are simply too few to actually allow this to happen.
The biggest fear today is “Don’t put me in a home.” Right now our provincial government thinks it’s easier to put money into beds (makes for good photo opts) than to actually fix what we all know is broken. Home care needs a total overhaul. Someone has to have the guts to say, “Stop. Let’s do what is right instead of what is easy.”
If we were subjecting our children to this disjointed, disorganized and disconnected model, there would be immediate action. Aren’t we seniors worth it?
Senior care needs to be under one government department, preferably labeled Senior Care. Right now bits and pieces are assigned to multiple levels and departments. No one is accountable. Not even professionals know where to find specific services.
Alberta needs a portal where all ‘information senior’ can be found. I asked one professional why I couldn’t find all the supports in one place and her answer was, “No one wants to attempt it as that information constantly changes. We’ve talked about this often, but it’s just too big of a job.” I asked ten years ago and I got the same answer when I asked today. To me, that is absolutely deplorable and quite horrifying!
Begin to ask questions of your politicians. Try to locate decision-makers within senior support services and ask them questions. Write letters with actionable suggestions. Stand up for what is right. Ask your own physicians how they see your next years unfolding. Ask what supports are available and how you access them. Begin a “Just In Case” binder.
As a baby boomer it is important that your advocates know how you see the next years of your life progressing. As I navigated the journey with our four parents I realized that there is no other stage in life that requires so much preparation. Take action today.