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HomeNewsNorthern seniors waiting almost twice as long to enter long-term care

Northern seniors waiting almost twice as long to enter long-term care

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(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

Seniors in Northern Health are waiting nearly a full year to be admitted into a long-term care facility.

That’s almost double the BC average of 178 days according to the 2021 Monitoring Seniors Services Report.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie told Vista Radio geography is often playing a large factor in the long wait times.

“So, people are waiting a long time to in part because they live in more remote communities and there are just not the beds available closer to home.”

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“Obviously, it’s a reflection of fewer beds per population than other parts of the province. It is also a reflection of the dispersed population over big geography.”

In addition, people aged 65 and over make up 15% of the population in Northern Health.

That equates to just over 45-thousand residents.

Mackenzie noted our region might see a low and slow transition when adding to its elderly population.

“I think we are seeing a slow shift. I also think you are going to see the proportion of seniors rise in Northern Health but that will happen a little bit slowly because don’t forget, Northern Health is attracting younger families at the moment.”

The largest proportion of seniors lives in the Vancouver Island (25%) and Interior Health (24%) authorities.

Roughly 987-thousand seniors call BC home.

Northern Health also reported 71 falls at registered assisted living facilities during the 2020/21 calendar year.

According to the report, the year-over-year rate of reported falls at these facilities rose 29% in BC.

“The alternative to not having people fall sometimes is placing them in a wheelchair and removing all semblance of their independence that they have. So, I always use the falls data with a bit of a caveat,” added Mackenzie.

Northern and Interior Health reported the highest rates at 23 falls per 100 units.

Mackenzie is concerned about the rising use of anti-psychotics at long-term facilities.

In BC, antipsychotic medications were administered to 33% of long-term care residents – a spike of 8% over the previous year.

The rate of use is also the highest its been in five years.

Mackenzie believes the trend can be reversed with the pandemic slowly fading away.

“We’ve done it before. We have seen significant decreases when we have put our efforts in and I think we need to turn our mind to that in the next couple of years to bring that number down.”

The percentage of long-term care residents taking antipsychotics with a psychosis diagnosis was 27% in BC – higher than the national rate of 21%.

Furthermore, alternative levels of care (ALC) days decreased by 28% and the average length of stay in the province also dropped except for Northern Health.

Both home support clients and care hours decreased by 3% overall, but Northern Health reported 19% more clients and a 14% spike in care hours.

Just under 21-hundred cases of abuse and neglect were reported to Designated Agencies in BC – 74% were for seniors aged 65 and older.

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