KAMLOOPS – Seniors will not be content to merely enjoy the sunset phase of their lives and will be very vocal about what they need and deserve if the reaction to a presentation by the B.C. seniors advocate today is any indication.
Advocate Isobel Mackenzie hosted a town hall meeting at the Seniors Centre for Information in the Brock Shopping Centre, Nov. 20. She shared findings and recommendations the most recent reports from her office.
Mackenzie was interrupted numerous times during a very spirited question and answer session. Some had questions, some wanted to complain and some wanted to share personal experiences, but no one was shy to express how they truly felt; especially as it pertained to the recent changes to the handyDART application.
Mackenzie shared some harsh statistics on the challenges facing an aging population in British Columbia. She said many seniors lived in near poverty. Those 75 years or older had a median income of $22,000
“This makes them the lowest income earners over the age of 25,” Mackenzie says.
Of those seniors still living in their homes, 97 per cent of home support clients have an unpaid care giver and at least 29 per cent of those caregivers were classified as being in distress.
But perhaps the most startling revelation was the over prescription of medication in residential care homes. About 34 per cent of residents in homes were given antipsychotics when only 4 per cent were diagnosed as schizophrenic or any other disease requiring this level of medication. Similarly, 47 per cent were prescribed antidepressants and only 25 per cent received a diagnosis.
Mackenzie says often when a senior entered a residential facility, even if this person had been generally cantankerous his or her entire life, there is a mentality of “by god you’re going to be happy.”
While the roughly 80 people in attendance listened attentively to Mackenzie’s presentation, the conversation shifted to issues of concern to Kamloops seniors.
Several attendees spoke about affordable housing, levels of care in homes, but nothing seemed more pertinent than healthcare, with two locals issues central above all others: family doctors and handyDART transportation.
More than one attendee spoke about the difficulties they faced finding a family doctor. Mackenzie says her office recommended the use of nurse practitioners as they were able to perform many of the same services as a doctor.
But one attendee was sceptical.
“We keep hearing about these nurse practitioners but can’t seem to make any headway,” she said arguing they were just as scarce as doctors.
No issue received more attention than the recent changes to the handDART application, an issue Mackenzie knew little about.
“Has anyone ever tried to get on a bus with a walker?” one attendee asked. The general belief was those who used walkers would be forced off of the accessible transit and forced to use the city bus in favour of those in wheelchairs.
Even with Coun. Dieter Dudy in attendance explaining the application changes, many were convinced their transit priviledges were over.
City council recently approved a B.C. transit initiative to change handyDART’s application process from a paper form and doctor’s note, to an in person interview with a health care professional.
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