WHEREAS rural Alberta’s population is aging, and the demand for healthcare services is growing correspondingly; and
WHEREAS rural residents face unique challenges in accessing home care services, including geographical barriers, limited availability of healthcare professionals, and lack of specialized care; and
WHEREAS Alberta Health Services (AHS), through the Resident Assessment Instrument for Home Care (RAI-HC), designates individuals needing home care into one of six categories: acute, rehabilitation, long-term supportive, end of life, maintenance, and wellness; and
WHEREAS home care services may be provided by AHS or contracted providers; and
WHEREAS many Alberta home care patients have unmet care plans and service needs, especially concerning housekeeping, grocery assistance, bathing, and therapies, indicating that more comprehensive services are needed beyond traditional health supports; and
WHEREAS there is an increasing reliance on for-profit providers in Alberta’s rural areas, which deviates the standard set for quality of care; and
WHEREAS the current funding model for home care services in rural Alberta is insufficient to meet the needs of the aging population, leading to a gap in healthcare provision and impacting the quality of life;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta to enhance home care services for rural residents by increasing funding, improving accessibility, implementing innovative care models such as community-based care tailored for rural settings, and other means.
Rural Alberta is witnessing a significant increase in its aging population, resulting in a rising demand for home care services. As this demographic trend continues, the urgency to address the issue becomes inevitable. Rural residents face a distinct set of challenges when accessing these services, such as geographical barriers, a scarcity of healthcare professionals, and a shortage of specialized care.
The foundation of the problem lies in the fact that home care is not entirely insured under the Canada Health Care Act (CHA). Depending on the province’s commitment, the eligibility for publicly provided home care services varies. In recent history, the annual budget increments for Alberta’s home care barely kept pace with inflation or population growth, increasing at a rate of just 1.4% per year. Although the 2023 budget has seen a 15% uplift, a significant portion is directed towards capital projects.
A 2019 MNP report titled Including Quality of Life for Residents in Facility-Based Care emphasized the inefficiencies in the current system, pointing out Albertans’ prolonged stays in higher levels of care while awaiting transfer to an appropriate care facility. Such inefficiencies result in higher hospitalization rates for conditions treatable outside hospital settings. Much of this challenge arises from a lack of suitable home or community care facilities outside of the primary hospital establishments.
A concerning trend in Alberta is the increasing reliance on for-profit providers, especially in many rural areas. Such providers often prioritize profitability by catering to clients with less complex needs, sidelining communities with high service costs, paying lower wages, resisting unionization, and under-investing in worker training. As a result, seniors, who constitute roughly 70% of home care patients, are often left with compromised care plans that include late or missed appointments and rushed care.
Further emphasizing the gravity of the situation, the MNP Senior’s Housing Study of 2021, Improving Quality of Life for Residents in Facility-Based Continuing Care, developed an integrated financial model to estimate the cost implications of the current care system. With care spaces anticipated to grow from 69,732 in 2020 to 112,960 by 2030, operating costs could skyrocket to $1.8 billion annually by 2030, with capital costs reaching $4.9 billion. Significant savings could be realized by enhancing home care service hours, thereby reducing the dependency on long-term care facilities.
Given the projections, it is evident that the present provincial model for home care services is falling short, especially for rural Alberta. The Rural Health Services Review by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Alberta Division reiterated the necessity for enhanced home care supports for the elderly in these areas. A particularly poignant challenge is the separation of elderly couples due to care requirements, leading to emotional distress during times when familial support is of utmost importance.
Considering the escalating demands, there is a pressing need to revisit and revamp the current model, placing a higher emphasis on home care services. This would allow seniors to remain in their familiar environments, respecting their wishes to age in their homes, while also addressing the heartbreaking issue of couples being separated.
The ramifications of this issue extend beyond the immediate need for enhanced care. Stakeholders, ranging from healthcare providers to senior advocacy groups and families, are deeply affected. Rural municipalities, in particular, are feeling the pressure as they fund housing management bodies in their regions. A failure to innovate could place a heavier burden on municipal resources. However, by proactively addressing these challenges, not only can seniors receive better care, but potential financial savings could also benefit municipal ratepayers.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.