Message from the Seniors Advocate on B.C. initiatives

The office’s work reporting on systemic issues affecting seniors continues

To the Editor,

As the Office of the Seniors Advocate continues to evolve, we saw continued activity on a number of fronts in the 2015/16 year.

The office’s work reporting on systemic issues affecting seniors continued and our mandated requirement to monitor seniors’ services began.

In the midst of this work, we continued to support seniors and their caregivers through our information and referral services and worked to raise awareness of seniors’ issues based on the important feedback we continue to hear from seniors from across the province.

This report will serve to highlight the range of initiatives my office has undertaken this past year including:

• The release of our first systemic housing report, Seniors Housing in B.C., Affordable, Appropriate, Available. This report highlighted a number of systemic challenges, and resulted in 18 recommendations to government.

• The release of our report, Caregivers in Distress: More Respite Needed, in which evidence confirmed that one-third of unpaid caregivers in B.C. are in distress, one of the highest rates in Canada.

• The completion of the B.C. Residential Care Quick Facts Directory, an online resource that is a compilation of information in a standardized format for 292 publicly-funded residential care facilities.

• The release of the Office of the Seniors Advocate’s first Monitoring Seniors’ Services report, which included information and trends highlighting where seniors’ needs are being met and where improvements are needed.

• Ongoing survey activities with the completion of the OSA’s survey of 22,000 home support clients and planning for the office’s survey of 27,000 individuals in residential care, to be completed in the 2016/17 fiscal year.

• Ongoing public awareness campaigns aimed at key areas including increasing awareness of MSP Premium Assistance among low-income seniors.

Throughout our work, we have been encouraged by the progress of the Province in responding to the issues we have raised.

For example, this past year, significant changes that would allow seniors to live in Assisted Living longer, were introduced by the Ministry of Health, a key recommendation in our housing report.

The Province also made efforts to address the issues seniors face with regard to income pressures related to MSP premiums by increasing the number of seniors who will qualify for a subsidy and dedicating efforts to promoting awareness of MSP Premium Assistance.

I am optimistic that we will continue to address additional cost pressures low-income seniors face in the year ahead.

As always, this past year I was privileged to be guided in my work by my 30-member Council of Advisers, a group of diverse and engaged seniors from across the province who are the office’s eyes and ears on the ground when it comes to hearing the unique challenges of seniors who live in varied communities in B.C.

I would also like to thank B.C.’s health authorities, government ministries and service providers for all their assistance in providing my office with data and information about seniors’ services.

It has been a busy and productive year and I know the year ahead will bring many more opportunities to collaborate with all of you to ensure we are doing all that we can to serve the needs of seniors in this province.

Isobel Mackenzie

Seniors Advocate

Province of British Columbia