SALT:United Nations International Day of Older Persons

United Nations International Day of Older Persons 

October 1 2020, Carol Wodak for SALT 

The Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team – fondly known as SALT – got together in the mid-90s in response to the Klein cuts for seniors’ services and benefits. We collectively represent a wealth of first-hand experience  in caring for loved ones. 

In the late 1980s, the so-called answer to rising costs of hospital and  other care settings was to shift the recovery and rehabilitation and  ongoing care needs of patients, particularly older patients, out of  hospitals to generously-funded non-hospital settings in the community.  

In order to convince a skeptical population, the provincial government repeatedly told us – “Don’t worry “funding and services will follow the  patient”. But by 1996, it was clear that the only thing following patients  were “bills, bills, bills” and new burdens for families and friends.  

Intl Seniors day 2020 SALT AB Protest

A 1989 headline in the Calgary Herald “Home care first health cut victim”.  That has been repeated again and again, pkus home care funding is  redirected to the providers of Designated Supportive Living facilities. The pandemic was met with increased rationing of home care services.  

The early shift from a direct service model to a broker system of care  delivery was ALSO an indication of our new norm, fragmenting and  privatizing services, shifting costs and responsibilities from our  government and our collective resources to seniors and families 

Intl Seniors day 2020 SALT AB Protest

A recent major Canadian study led by Janet Fast and her team at the U of  A actually quantifies the toll on health, finances and relationships of  caregivers – mostly women, over decades of caregiving.  

So far, this shift from public services to commercial interests dominated  by private equity investors willing to cut corners has NOT proven to be  effective for seniors or for efficiency and cost reduction to the public  purse.

The Kenney government’s pandemic response was not to deal with the  inappropriate accommodation, staffing and resources exposed in spades  by COVID-19. Instead they locked down the residents, depriving them of  important informal caregiving which comprises nearly half of their basic  care. We cannot accept that this is a reasonable set of priorities. 

Intl Seniors day 2020 SALT AB Protest

80% of COVID-19 deaths were seniors in care facilities. They died, not  because of their age, but because their care and accommodation were  unsafe. Mr. Kenny’s insistence that their average age was 83, whereas  average life expectancy is 82 is just blaming the victims. At age 80,  StatsCan tells me I can expect to live another 10 years 

COVID-19 reports don’t acknowledge the staff in LTC facilities who were  also victims of COVID-19 because of the conditions of their work. It  doesn’t address collateral deaths – persons who died without testing, or  because of isolations, reduced or unavailable care or medical attention.  

The UCP government, like its predecessors, has failed seniors – and  now, is excluding seniors and advocacy groups from consideration. It’s  offensively patronizing to make decisions affecting our lives and families  without involving us in the decision-making. Excluding us from the 2019  and 2020 Day of the Older Person doesn’t give us confidence of your  regard, either. 

It’s not all bad news. Concerns about long term care have been made  very clearly; Canadians and Albertans have taken this issue to heart.  

The federal Government has listened, and propose to negotiate national  standards, elaboration the Criminal Code’s definition of the necessaries  of life with operator penalties and paid sick leave for all employees. 

Let us hope that they do not invite the private owners of care homes to  define the monitoring and inspection criteria, as happened here.  

Carol Wodak 

October 1, 2020

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