Queen’s University public policy experts release long-term care report

KINGSTON, ONTARIO Nov. 27, 2020 

Renowned policy thought leaders Don Drummond and Duncan Sinclair, both Fellows of the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, have released a white paper that calls for revolutionizing Canada’s approach to seniors’ care. The report, titled Ageing Well, proposes a proactive, coordinated, and holistic model that considers the healthcare needs of Canada’s rapidly aging population in tandem with seniors’ housing, lifestyle, and social needs.

Drummond and Sinclair developed Ageing Well in collaboration with Rebekah Bergen, a recent graduate of the school. The report highlights what became clear during the first wave of COVID-19 – that Canadian seniors need and deserve care that ensures their health, well-being and happiness is considered when providing care options. A key theme in the report is that seniors require four primary types of support – healthcare, housing, lifestyle, and social – to be considered holistically if they’re to age well.

“Canada’s healthcare model focuses on alleviating physical and mental limitations, with housing, lifestyle and social needs viewed as secondary," Duncan Sinclair, Distinguished Fellow, Queen's University and co-Author of Aging Well, stated. "However, these factors must be seriously evaluated and interwoven into our planning and delivery of care. There are benefits to investing in age-in-place options and it is the responsibility of Canadians, and our leaders, to provide our seniors with these options so they can maintain a high quality of life as their needs evolve.”  

The report notes that between one-in-nine and one-in-five seniors in long-term care (LTC) facilities would benefit from home care, which is often a more suitable and less expensive path. Additionally, many seniors move into LTC due to frailty and dementia, when integrating the pillars of social, housing, and lifestyle needs can help prevent such conditions and lessen severity where prevention is not feasible. The benefits of incorporating these additional pillars into care options are not exclusive to those in LTC, as all seniors deserve consideration in these areas.

The Ageing Well report also reveals that Canada is an international outlier when it comes to investing in home care, which allows seniors to receive the care they need while maintaining independence as they stay and age in their homes. Other countries, such as Denmark and Japan, have proven the effectiveness of age-in-place options and Canada, and its provinces, must learn from other jurisdictions and invest in home care and community services rather than view LTC or similar facilities as the only options.

Ageing Well's co-author, Donald Drummond, Stauffer Dunning Fellow, Queen's University said, “Canada will need to support the needs of 4.2 million additional seniors over the next 22 years and 82 per cent will be 75 or older. This dramatically increases the median age and with it the complexity and cost of seniors’ care. It’s pertinent we think about the long-term implications of Canada’s next steps for seniors, and the associated costs.” 

Financially, the Ageing Well report predicts two economic shocks that will contribute to a crisis in seniors’ care: LTC residences will be more expensive due to expected post-COVID-19 reforms; and, the cost of services will significantly increase as most baby boomers will be at least 80 years of age. Without substantial alterations to models of care, the current 1.3 per cent of GDP spent on traditional LTC can be expected to increase to 4.2 per cent by 2041. A significant portion of these costs could be offset by implementing additional age-in-place options, at approximately one-third the price of institutional LTC.