Isobel Mackenzie

Isobel Mackenzie

Home support top issue facing Cariboo seniors

Seniors in Williams Lake should be more concerned about home support than anything, Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said.

Seniors in Williams Lake should be more concerned about home support than anything, Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie met with about 30 seniors at the Seniors Activity Centre in the lakecity on Friday, Nov. 25, to give them an update and answer questions.

“One of the key things is funding,” she said.

The province’s home support policy says people qualify for up to four hours a day of home support if they need it and there is an option for 12 shifts of live-in care a month.

Under the provincial program Choices in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) seniors can be funded directly, something Mackenzie said would work well to alleviate frustrations around home support in places like Williams Lake.

“For rural B.C. this is key. I presented to the select standing committee on health about this. You could get up to $120 a day to hire someone to look after yourself or your loved one. That someone could be a granddaughter, a son or a daughter.”

When her office examined data about the region, it revealed that six per cent of seniors in the Cariboo are getting sent from Cariboo Memorial Hospital into residential care, while in Interior Health that number is four per cent.

At age 80-plus, 17 per cent of people are going from CMH into residential care compared to 15 per cent in Interior Health.

“At CMH you are sending home nine per cent of 60 to 79 year olds with home supports and the average for Interior Health is 15 per cent,” Mackenzie said.

And the average length of stay in the hospital for people age 80-plus at CMH is 30 days compared to 17 days in Interior Health.

“The community supports are probably not there or being provided, so people who could go home earlier are staying in the hospital longer,” she said.

She compared the figures to Interior Health and not the Lower Mainland where there are lots of supports, she added.

Three stereotypes about seniors need to be dispelled, Mackenzie said.

They are that the majority of seniors are rich, that they will end up in residential care, and are going to be diagnosed with dementia.

“Actually 93 per cent of seniors live independently and when it comes to people who are 85 years or over, 75 per cent live independently, 10 per cent in housing and 15 per cent in nursing homes,” she said.

“The vast majority are going to live independently.”

Secondly, 80 per cent of people age 85 and over do not have diagnosis of dementia.

“Most of you are going to keep your marbles for the rest of your years,” she said, prompting laughter around the room.

As for the financial status of seniors, Mackenzie said half of seniors in B.C. are living on an income of less than $26,000 a year and a quarter of seniors are living on less than $19,000 a year.