March 08, 2016 - 9:30 AM
VICTORIA - Health Minister Terry Lake says he wants British Columbia's seniors to have more flexibility to live independently before their only option is full-time residential care.
Lake said amendments introduced Monday to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act aim to allow seniors opportunities to stay longer in their homes through part-time assisted living arrangements.
The Liberal government announced in its recent throne speech that it will modernize community care and assisted living. A B.C. Seniors Advocate report last year concluded many seniors have been transferred to residential care facilities sooner than necessary because of existing rules.
"It's important that people are competent and able to keep themselves out of danger," Lake said. "But if someone just needs a little extra home support on a regular basis, let's provide that as assisted living rather than bumping it up to residential care."
Current legislation means seniors who required two or more of six prescribed services offered in assisted living were expected to move to a residential care home. The services included assistance with daily living activities such as eating, dressing, mobility and personal hygiene.
Other services included medication, financial and behavioural management.
British Columbia's seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said previous regulations had a negative impact on people who were still cognitively aware and able to carry on a conversation.
"If they suddenly needed help with what we call a therapeutic diet, if they need their food texturized, not allowed. Over you go to residential care," she said.
As of last year, there were 4,430 units of publicly funded registered assisted living units in B.C., along with 3,247 units of private registered assisted living.
There were 27,421 publicly funded residential care beds in B.C., as of September 2015.
More than 9,000 seniors are currently admitted to residential care beds each year.
Mackenzie said removing current barriers to assisted living will increase assisted and independent living options for elderly people.
"It will be very positively received by seniors, particularly those who are in assisted living now because that's their home and that's where they want to live for the rest of their days," she said.
Opposition New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy said she'll be looking for the government to increase the number of subsidized care options for seniors wanting assisted living help.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016