By: James Watson
The Canadian healthcare sector faces an uncertain future. With the demands of an aging population looming, many critics question whether the sector is up to the task. I am sure many people have heard the argument and understand its basic premise but here it is again: baby boomers & consequent aging population = healthcare crisis. An aging population will increase the demand upon the healthcare sector’s resources and the current state of the system will be unable to meet increasing demands. Changes – BIG changes – must be made to prepare and meet the challenge.
Now here is some good news: I am not the first one to think or write about all this. Policy-makers, government agencies, hospitals, nonprofit organizations and private businesses have been planning for this for quite some time. Even still, it is difficult to say whether we will be prepared. I would like to illustrate the complexity of this problem by taking a closer look at a particular service that Premier Homecare Services provides and is well-versed in. Palliative care or end-of-life care is a topic that has been gaining more and more attention (deservedly so) in the healthcare sector and should illustrate the problem well.
Palliative care is a complex service with many component parts like in-home support, bereavement support, care team support, children’s support, information & education support, pain relief and symptom management. Each of these services may be provided in its entirety or to a certain extent by different providers and organizations. For example: A hospice may provide substantial bereavement support and children’s support but may be limited in how much caregiver support it can provide. On the other hand, a private agency like Premier Homecare Services can provide 24 hour caregivers but cannot provide professional bereavement support or children’s counseling. The reality is that substantial planning is required to coordinate all of the different services and providers, to the extent that the service and provider landscape can quickly become a maze.
This sort of confusion is symptomatic of the looming problem in the healthcare sector facing an aging population. There are so many service providers, organizations, agencies, companies, institutions, bureaucracies, initiatives, aging-at-home strategies and 25 year outlooks claiming to have the solutions that many individuals and families suddenly realize they do not have the knowledge or experience to determine which option may be best in a care situation. Add to this the inherent stress and intensity of the circumstance and it quickly becomes a Catch 22 of information overload.
A colleague of mine with Hospice Toronto (hospices are nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing palliative care and beds) offered me some statistics on death and end-of-life conditions in Canada:
According to the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA):
- Approximately 259,000 Canadians die each year;
- Each death affects approximately 5 family members and/or caregivers;
- With the advancement of treatment therapies, Canadians are living longer in declining health for much longer periods of time than ever before;
- Many Canadians will die with at least two chronic diseases; and
- With our aging population, deaths in Canada will increase over 27% to 330,000 deaths annually by 2026, and 29% to 425,000 by 2036.
As the population ages and advances in healthcare technology extend life and prolong end-of-life conditions, the demand for palliative care services will increase substantially too. The question is whether the current system will be able to meet the forecasted demand.
Palliative care delivery and the healthcare sector as a whole could be made more efficient if access to different service options is improved. Some professionals are already in place to assist this. Social workers, for example, perform highly undervalued work in advising families during their crisis.
The great problem facing the healthcare sector may not only be whether the service capacity exists (while this is still a very important concern) but whether someone can figure out how to procure the help they require. Knowledge is the solution here and a priority must be placed on public education. Empower the public by educating them about available services before a crisis occurs. Empower professionals like social workers by providing service pathways clear of bureaucratic obstruction and lethargy. Empower Canadians to secure the healthcare services they deserve. In order words: allow for and encourage self-directed care by Canadians as they age.
Here are some additional links to some palliative care related websites:
- What is Palliative Care?
- Palliative and End-of-life Care
- WHO Definition of Palliative Care
By: James Watson
In the last blog article I wrote about the inherent “green” qualities of home care in terms of how it contributes to strong and sustainable communities by empowering seniors to remain in their homes. I explained how communities with many seniors, with strong knit social ties between the young and old, might be better poised to advocate around common environmental causes and create positive outcomes.
This week I would like to broaden the topic beyond only homecare to include senior care in institutional settings like long-term care homes, retirement residences and assisted living communities. I wish to emphasize that such green potential may exist within them and that all it takes is a little innovation and creative thinking to tease it out.
Greening Senior Care
Long-term care homes, retirement residences and assisted living communities present considerable challenges for a greener, more sustainable future in senior care. They are often housed in large buildings with equally large energy expenditures. They all have large common living areas and corridors that must be lit and heated or cooled regardless of whether they are in use. Family members wishing to visit their loved ones will often drive to the building, parking in an outdoor lot where a productive green space like a small park or forest could have been instead. Yet even despite these negative characteristics, these buildings may also present great opportunities for more “green” personalized care.
Green Roof Potential
Take the following long-term care home as an example of one embracing its greener side – here is a link to the news release: Wellesley Central green roof illustrating sector’s evolving sophistication. The release profiles the Wellesley Central Place, a long-term care home in Toronto’s downtown core that has incorporated a green roof into its building’s design. The green roof’s use of solar panels provides a source of renewable energy while the planting of grasses and other plants provide the building with better insulation and greater overall energy efficiency. In addition, the unique gardening opportunities presented by the green roof allow for activities that keep the home’s residents mentally stimulated and physically active.
An Environmental Legacy
With the senior demographic growing ever larger in Canada, the implications of their care decisions will grow too. It is up to the service providers to provide consumers with environmentally sound options so that everybody may receive the personalized care they desire while guaranteeing a positive environmental legacy for younger generations.
By: James Watson
I wanted to write about something in this blog that has been on my mind ever since before I began working at Premier Homecare Services but had yet put any pen to paper over it.
It all started with a conversation I had with one of my professors while in my final year of an undergraduate degree in Environment & Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. I had been presented with the offer to come work for Premier Homecare Services once I graduated. A great opportunity, no doubt, but I was conflicted over how my education might have no relevance. I visited one of my professors in the Environmental Studies Faculty for advice and I was grateful I did, for what she said reinforced my final decision to take the position and enter the homecare business.
Do I take the job?
I sat across from her in her office and explained my situation; she already knew some of it. Academia was not my thing but I was still very passionate about everything I was studying – environmental issues, economics, peace and conflict studies – so how could I tie all that in with this opportunity I was given? I went on to clarify, the best I could at the time, what Premier Homecare Services did: “they help seniors remain in their home by employing caregivers that will visit them and help them around the house.” She began smiling from ear to ear … I was immediately reminded that I was speaking to the professor who taught the course on Sustainable Communities and Good Governance.
“That is great!” she declared. “The elderly form the very roots of a community. They know its history – both human and environmental – firsthand. They knew next to everybody in the neighbourhood. Move them out and seclude them in nursing homes to the disadvantage of the whole community! If the community ties breakdown, so too are any environmental safeguards at risk.” She was entirely right and it clicked in my mind instantaneously. We continued discussing the various aspects how seniors contribute to a sustainable community and I left feeling confident in accepting the job offer.
Senior Citizens and Sustainable Communities
It is true because sustainability is not only about placing a park here, planting a tree there and installing some solar panels on your roof. No. Rather, sustainability is a mindset, an ideal that an individual and community alike must strive toward. A strong knit community with social ties between the young and old will be better poised to advocate around a common environmental cause and mobilize actual, positive change. It might be a downtown community creating a neighbourhood garden to grow fresh vegetables or a suburban community protesting the introduction of a big box store into their neighbourhood, but in either case there is little doubt in my mind that our senior citizens would be among those leading the charge or support those who are. They would be the ones teaching the children which weeds to pull in the garden or testifying to the importance of small, local business in front of the town council meeting.
Empowering seniors to remain in their homes, among their communities abundant with history and social resources, in my mind, is most certainly a step positive step toward sustainability. That the provision of in-home care acts toward this end reinforces my confidence in embracing the opportunity I was given.
By: James Watson
Senior-Care, a Growing Industry
There is a lot of popular discussion surrounding the senior care industry, its outstanding positive growth trend and the factors that are contributing to it. It is commonly understood that this growth is due to, in a very large degree, an aging population that is increasingly using the industry’s products and services.
My blog article focuses on this understanding, highlighting that while the aging population is certainly increasing their demand, questions remain as to how different demographic factors are playing into it.
For example, is the sheer size of this aging population contributing to the outstanding growth boasted by home health care agencies or are there other factors that are much more influential? Careful critical thought and analysis must be applied when trying to understand this.
Home Healthcare Agencies | Homecare
The idea for all of this came to me while I was browsing some industry relevant blogs and literature on the internet. I came across a pair of blogs – one whom cited the other – that I found especially interesting. The first article I read was Growing Aging Population a Myth? Yes According to This Analyst, written on behalf of the SeniorCareMarketer.com Blog. The author is responding to an article written by Daryl Davis titled, Home Healthcare Industry: Ghosts in the Demographic Machine. The first article (SeniorCareMarketer.com) concludes about
“The article [by Davis] was written from an investment perspective and the author suggests not investing in this industry because in his opinion the growing aging population is a myth and does not support the dramatic growth of HHAs [Home Healthcare Agencies].” (SeniorCareMarketer.com)
The problem is that this judgment by SeniorCareMarketer.com is in stark contrast to what is actually presented in
Aging Population is Not a Myth
SeniorCareMarketer.com’s response to
On an encouraging note,
Deciphering the Causes for Growth in Senior-Care
As this example of the home healthcare industry shows, it may be that the sheer size of the aging population is not the predominate factor in the growth each of us professionals observe and talk about within this senior-care industry. Maybe it is mostly changing attitudes on the part of the consumer. Maybe professionals are engaging the community better, improving education and collaborative efforts. There could be some structural factors too – like political lobbying and institutional reform – that are helping to create new markets. This should be encouraging because we all know that the population wave is coming eventually too.
So rather than unabashedly buying into the popular rhetoric being thrown around, it is necessary to diligently uncover and examine all the facts before making a statement about it. We must think critically about the marketplace and its varying degrees of complexity – seek to understand all of the factors affecting it. For the better of both sides of the equation – those providing a service and those receiving it – everyone must commit to this due diligence of statement and thought or else we risk misinforming and misleading.
By: James Watson
Premier Homecare Services is not only just a service provider for the in-home care industry, nor is it strictly in the senior care industry. Rather, it is in the business of building strong, healthy communities. Its partners – hospitals, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, community and seniors centres, seniors’ consultants, financial planners, medical professionals, etc. – are in this same business of community wellness. It is by the synergy of our organizations’ combined effort, through our professional networks and collaborations that the business of building strong, healthy communities actually occurs.
Anyone familiar with the aging business understands that there is an amazing deluge of decisions to be made by any individual requiring service. Anybody facing such decisions alone would easily feel overwhelmed. Even if that person has a large and motivated family to advocate for them, the overwhelming slew of providers and services would be altogether confusing. Professional networks strive to aid those people in making decisions; maintaining a condition where anybody at any place in the network has the knowledge and tact to expertly advise somebody on their decisions or to refer them to someone that can. An individual’s wellbeing is addressed. Family caregivers are empowered. A community is strengthened.
When any one organization refuses to look past its own operations, when it fails to see the true depth of its industry’s complexity, when it becomes afflicted with a stifling case of short-sightedness or myopia, it degrades that potential for professional networking synergy. That myopia is precisely what Premier Homecare Services strives to eliminate.
The Premier Homecare Services blog will seek to uncover those stunted issues, those topics characteristic short-sightedness where insufficient investigation results in confusion and misinterpretation. Exploring topics from the merely technical to the wholly conceptual, it will aim to educate and inform professionals, caregivers, families and anybody who wishes to become more proficient toward the issues at hand. You are invited to make comment on any entry – discussion is a central means of uncovering core issues. New material will be published every second Thursday so be sure to check back to the Premier Homecare Services’ blog.