With longevity the new norm, and seniors thriving well beyond age 85 and even into their 100s, Alberta is grappling with how to cherish and care for a very different generation of seniors. The numbers are unprecedented (quadrupled in the past five decades) due to shifting demographics. Social and family structures are significantly different than they were decades ago. And expectations are changing, with most seniors preferring to live independently in their own residence and community. Finally, there are the financial pressures that accompany 20-35 years of retirement.

In 2019, CHAA produced a discussion paper, Transforming Seniors Health and Wellness in Alberta, that sparked sector-wide dialogue about our need to modernize continuing care. The paper shone a light on the reality that today’s long-living seniors are more likely to suffer from social, emotional and physical isolation than from any other single disease or condition. Most will never see the inside of a long-term care facility. And many have a legitimate fear of outliving their financial resources.

Yet despite these significant changes, Alberta’s continuing care system hasn’t evolved much over the past 50 years. With our seniors’ care system still reflective of a bygone era, it’s time to revisit a decades-old system that can no longer meet the challenges of the future.

Our paper called for a new vision for seniors’ care and offered 64 recommendations across 12 areas of focus:

  • Obsolete legislative environment prevents integrated care

  • Care funding methodology not sensitive to resident acuity, profile, facility size, or collective agreements

  • Wage funding and workforce issues

  • Risk averse system focuses on reporting, compliance and auditing

  • Resident quality of life not measured or funded

  • Health system as primary gatekeeper for seniors’ services

  • Poorly integrated & coordinated community-based services

  • Lack of community supports for early-stage dementia

  • Isolation, caregiver burden and unhealthy family separation

  • Lack of restorative care to expedite hospital discharge and transitions into care

  • Lack of spaces at highest care levels

  • Accommodation fees too low to support investment.

CHAA’s discussion paper emerged as an important contributor to the Facility-Based Continuing Care Review with our call for a vision that’s owned and led by Albertans. One that’s values-driven, serving as a source of unity and strength as we commit to a compassionate, caring and courageous approach to seniors’ care.

A system that reflects new health professions, new models of care, and changing expectations about seniors’ health and wellness. One that compels us to honour and care for those least able to look after themselves: seniors living with frailty, complex health conditions, social isolation, cognitive and mental health challenges, and limited financial means.

See the full paper, Transforming Seniors’ Health and Wellness

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Learn how CHAA is advocating for continuing care regulatory change in Alberta.