Plan needed to look after ageing population

Bermuda must develop a strategy to cut the cost of care for seniors and help families to look after their relatives at home, the executive director of Age Concern Bermuda said yesterday.

Claudette Fleming said the organisation had highlighted the growth rate in the number of elderly people on the island for 20 years but a sustainable structure had still to be adopted.

She was speaking after population projections showed that almost 25 per cent of the population is expected to be aged 65 or older by 2026.

Government statisticians predicted the proportion of seniors will climb to 24.9 per cent, up from 16.9 per cent in 2016, in a report released last week.

Dr Fleming said it was “not news to us” and the team had been working to raise awareness of “successful ageing” through legal and health clinics.

She explained: “Our long-term care is expensive in Bermuda. There are about 21 facilities and the average stay can go from $4,000 to $12,000 a month.

“In other countries they would have support, we don’t have that.

“We do have financial assistance — the majority of financial assistance recipients are actually older people in residential care but we know that’s not sustainable and the Government is trying to cut back.”

Dr Fleming said: “We want to see fiscally sound long-term care in Bermuda and we are working on that.

“It will look like less money being spent on long-term care so that it’s actually affordable — that’s one of our biggest challenges and that’s one of the blocks to new developments.”

She added that a lack of help for people who needed home care could lead to hospital bed blocking.

Dr Fleming said: “Nor are home-care services regulated or monitored, so there are a lot of risks there. We have a change in long-term care, that is to say the frailer are among the fastest growing group.

“We’ve got eighties and above and we’re going into people aged 100 and above but think about a 100-year-old, their children are probably in their seventies and there are fewer of them.

“These are all things we’ve been saying in the past but we’re here, we have to put the attention here.”

She added: “If we don’t put these measures in place we will have more dependent older people with families that are simply bursting at the seams trying to support them.”

Age Concern found in a 2011 study that seniors wanted to stay in their own homes.

Dr Fleming said there came a point for many where it was no longer appropriate for them to do so without full-time care.

Dr Fleming said families were “our greatest resource” and that most people helped their elderly relatives but needed a support network, which included assistance with bathing, cooking, transport or stand-ins so they can go to work.

She added that real strides had yet to be made to tackle the problem and it was up to the Government to create a framework that would ensure seniors’ needs were met.

But Dr Fleming said: “I can’t see any co-ordinated effort at the moment.

“We’ve been a part of ideas and substantive plans that have stakeholders’ input across the board but in terms of tangible actions and a particular initiative responsible for carrying out some of the things that we need to see … that doesn’t exist.

“We’re still at the talking point but, you can see by the numbers, we need more than talking.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said yesterday that it was committed to addressing long-term care needs on the island.

She continued: “Change and reform are not as fast or affordable as everyone would like, but progress is steady to ensure ageing persons can age at home and age in place as much as possible.”

Information about some of the work can be found on the Government’s long-term care webpage.

The spokeswoman continued: “Specific actions undertaken to assist the country’s long-term care sector are upgrades to regulation and enforcement in care homes, the increase in home-care benefits for Health Insurance Plan and FutureCare policy holders, education and training resources online;,and analysis of long-term care services and supports.

“Further development of care home bed capacity is also an ongoing area of dialogue with interested developers.”

Lovitta Foggo, the government reform minister, said last week that a home care policy had been developed to encourage seniors to “age at home where possible”, which provided payment to “qualified caregivers”.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Health and Seniors, said: “It is only a Progressive Labour Party administration that is clueless about the impact of the ‘baby boomers’ who are contributing to the climb in the seniors’ population.”

She added: “The home care policy for seniors, introduced under the One Bermuda Alliance administration, is well worth continuing.

“But it must be pointed out that when the Government gives away public funds to ensure the success of a private business for those on the friends and family gravy train it will not be a formula to help in the performance of pension funds or the social insurance scheme.”

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