Working towards a healthier nation of seniors: the HEAL consensus statement

As we begin to see some light at the end of the COVID tunnel, HEAL have been looking ahead towards ways to create a healthier Canada, with a specific focus on seniors. It’s a statement that doesn’t pull its punches when it sees failings, but also highlights the invaluable contribution of home care and caregivers in enabling more Canadian seniors to age in place.

HEAL (Organizations for Health Action) is a “non-partisan” group of 40 national health organizations, working together to improve the health of our nation, and the quality of care they receive. HEAL brings together over 650,000 health care providers and clients.

Their new Consensus Statement “Beyond COVID-19: HEAL’s recommendations for a healthier nation” focuses on:

“The need to mitigate further impacts of future COVID-19 waves, in particular on Canadian seniors. The lasting effects of the pandemic on the mental health and the substance use of Canadians, and the ongoing lack of access to care, must also be at the forefront of Canada’s efforts.”

Aging in Place

HEAL points to the “decades of neglect of the Long Term Care (LTC) sector including the devaluing of home care” that in their view led to the unacceptable numbers of deaths from COVID-19 in the LTC population. To counter this, HEAL are calling for further investment in home care for aging in place, to satisfy a very real need and desire in the senior population. As HEAL’s report says:

“When you talk to Canadians about where they want to live as they age, nursing homes or institutionalized care are not the answer. Older adults overwhelmingly want to stay in their homes, or as it is known in healthcare policy circles, age in place. “

HEAL cites 6 key factors that are required to enable aging in place, drawing on nursing research. These are:

  • sufficient income
  • good social connections
  • support in the local community
  • access to transportation
  • personal safety
  • ability to maintain physical well-being, independence and quality of life

This ties in with the nine areas of life on the Government of Canada checklist from 2018, “Are you ready to age in place?”. HEAL sees the continued investments in promoting healthy lifestyles and improved mental health as the way forward for a better quality of life as people age, but only alongside a better care system overall.

“A well-organized community support and home care system in tandem with a supportive and safe long-term care system will also ease pressure on the acute-care system and eliminate many gaps in the continuum of care that too often result in previously independent seniors landing in hospital or long-term care facilities.”

In HEAL’s view, this will help prevent the issue of moving seniors from hospitals into long-term care, and some provinces categorising home care as “non-essential”. This resulted in home care being unavailable just at the point people needed it most, and placed a heavy burden on family and informal caregivers alike. As the report says:

“The pandemic has highlighted that home and community care are essential for the safety of Canadian seniors and that home care will be essential in the fight against future waves of COVID-19. Further funding is needed to provide health care services for priority populations while limiting exposure to COVID-19 by increasing care in the home setting prior to and during future waves of the virus.”

Healthy aging and nutrition

As a Calgary home care company, we are very much aware of the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating for seniors. It still shocked us to read the statistic that over half of older adults who are admitted to hospital are suffering from malnutrition. This not only extends their stay in hospital, but also costs the health system an additional $2billion. At Vytality at Home, our caregivers can help with meal planning, preparation and grocery shopping, to help ensure our less mobile seniors have sufficient, healthy food in their house.

The issue of food insecurity due to lack of income has been addressed to some extent by Government policies to provide sufficient income, but recent research low income is still a predictor of food insecurity in seniors.

Falls prevention for seniors

According to the Canadian Fall Prevention Curriculum (CFPC):

“Falls are the #1 cause of injury-related deaths in seniors. On average, every 10 minutes a senior is hospitalized because of a fall, contributing to over 90% of hip and wrist fractures and 60% of head injuries among this age group.”

The HEAL report highlights the importance of various factors and interventions that can help to prevent falls.

“Nutrition and exercise programs that improve knowledge, balance, mobility and strength are one of the most effective and low-cost ways to improve a person’s stability. “

Exercise for those with limited mobility has become more difficult during the COVID restrictions, but as spring approaches, many will want to venture out again. Our caregivers can accompany you or a loved one for a short walk outside or to a local park (when restrictions allow), providing support and building confidence in being more active again.

Preventing falls in the home

From our own experience, we’d also add the ability to modify your home to suit changing mobility needs, and accessing reliable tradespeople to carry out the work. At Vytality at Home, we have an established network of trusted Partners able to carry out home maintenance, modifications and repairs at special rates. More importantly, we hand-pick our Partners, choosing companies that have experience with and empathy for seniors. Our clients can contact us via phone or through the app to book a range of services to help prevent falls, from installation of grab rails to sidewalk snow clearance.

Building age-friendly communities

The HEAL statement recommends:

“(Supporting) an age-friendly approach by taking the needs of older Canadians into account when designing buildings, walkways, transportation systems, and other aspects of the built environment and to support seniors to be active in all areas of community life.”

The need for an age-friendly approach is one of the reasons we have partnered with new home developers Brookfield Residential to provide home care services to new residents in their University District Calgary properties. The integration of seniors into mixed generation communities helps build engagement and create a culture of respect and connectivity, according to the National Seniors Strategy.

Looking for exceptional home care in Calgary?

Contact Vytality at Home to discuss your own requirements, or to talk through our home care services for elderly parents or loved ones living in Calgary.

539, 5940 Macleod Trail SWCalgary, AB