The debate on elderly care in Barbados took another step forward at the conference that was held at the Savannah hotel on Monday February 25. The challenge of caring for the elderly will grow exponentially as the community ages and we already have the projection of 25 per cent of the population in Barbados being over 65 by the year 2025 (UN Report 2000). The frequent news of “bed blocking” at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital because of the inability to place seniors who no longer need hospital care repeatedly appears in the media.
We are told that an integrated system needs to be in place where all of the stakeholders are working collectively to meet the needs. The Minister of Health, prior to the election, committed his Government to continuing to face this problem in a coordinated way and in the previous mandate steps were taken that will assuage the development of that coordination.
For example, educating the public on the proper use of pension moneys to meet the needs of the pensioner (and not the extended family) and strengthening the role of the polyclinics to bring care closer to the community.
It is also noted that the manifesto of the Democratic Labour Party included two significant entries “Expand Community Based Elderly care programmes and Restructuring Financial Programmes for the Elderly”.
Recognition for enhanced home care services has also been identified by the Ministry of Social Care, and discussion on the equality of services being delivered to seniors is ongoing. BARP has made a significant contribution to the subject of coordinated care with their proposal of an integrated care facility.
In going forward, the Government would do well to look to the Canadian approach to the same situation where each province has developed a single entry system for assessment and delivering the services required. There are many from the Bajan Diaspora that has developed experience in working within these systems and drawing on that pool should be considered.
The recently reviewed book Barbadian Canadians, that was authored by Evelyn Greaves, High Commissioner to Canada, may provide useful information on that Diaspora.
Every province in Canada has its own approach but the direction is single minded. A standard assessment tool is used for anyone seeking services and the system can direct the person according to their needs. Home care, day care and respite care, institutional care (nursing homes both private and public) and complex continuing care centres are included in the resources available. These assessment tools can be used by any of the clinical professionals although social Workers dominate the staff assigned to this task.
A look at the Continuing Care Access Centres system in Ontario will provide a glimpse at the system and the City of Ottawa with four public owned long term care homes and a myriad of privately owned facilities could be a geographical area for review and visit.
The population of Ottawa is about 900,000 compared with Barbados with approximately 300,000. Expanding the services at the polyclinics to include assessment for geriatric services could be considered re-inventing the wheel is not an option in a world where information is so readily available.
— Gus A Hollingsworth
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