Editorial — Seniors need chance to live a better life

Seniors Advocate suggests many seniors in residential care could live in less-costly assisted living homes, or on their own.

B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie has issued a report on seniors in residential care which has gained a great deal of attention. The attention is long overdue.

Mackenzie points out that there are more seniors in residential care than need to be there. She suggests that many could actually be in assisted living, which is less labour-intensive and less costly, or living in their homes with more assistance from community programs.

Not only would this be a better way of living for these individuals, as they would have considerably more independence, it would save the B.C. government a pot of money. Mackenzie estimates that as many as 15 per cent of the 25,000 people in residential care could be in less-intensive care facilities.

This could save the province millions of dollars each year,  and should be looked at very closely.

Mackenzie, who did a survey of the seniors in residential care and the 29,000 home care clients, also found that far too many seniors are being given drugs to control their behaviour.

One-third of those in residential care are being given anti-psychotic drugs, even though the number actually needing those drugs is far smaller. Only four per cent have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

Meanwhile, about twice as many seniors as actually need them are receiving anti-depressants.

It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that government officials and those running care facilities are drugging residents indiscriminately, likely to control behaviour. This is simply not right.

Health Minister Terry Lake acknowledges that too many seniors in care are receiving anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs, and said there is training underway to ensure that staff members know what drugs are appropriate for people living in residential care.

Mackenzie has highlighted two very important issues, which will be of benefit to both seniors and taxpayers if there is proper follow-through. Seniors deserve proper health services, but they also must be treated with dignity. They should only be given drugs they really need.

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