Opinion Paper

From Bad to Worse: Residential Care in Alberta

   As the population ages and seniors come to represent an increasing proportion of Albertans, discussions about senior residential care has intensified. The Parkland Institute’s recent study, “From Bad to Worse: Elder Care in Alberta,” presents an examination of the residential elder care system in Alberta, identifying two major shifts in the way that elder care has changed in Alberta within recent years: first, the replacement of long term care with assisted living under the continuing care stream, and second, the expansion of for-profit delivery of residential elder care. The report focuses strongly on this second change, looking specifically at how privatized residential care is of poorer quality when compared to not-for-profit and public care facilities.
   This report provides a critical look at the status of residential elder care within the province, emphasizing the difficulties in obtaining data and information pertaining to the health sector. The study makes a number of recommendations for how elder care should be amended going into the future.
   Alberta Council on Aging, emphasizes it would be productive to make recommendations on how to improve the current system, which increasingly includes partnerships with not-for-profit and for-profit care. Legislators must take a critical look at all aspects of the current residential care system and ensure that the residential care system as it is now meets high standards of care and is appropriate, accessible and affordable to all.
   As the report’s title aptly suggests, the system was bad before the rise of for-profit care. It would seem that a more useful assessment of the system would be to look at what concrete changes can be made to the current system to improve quality of life for all persons utilizing the system now and in to the future.

While the fundamental goal for any for-profit private company will always be to generate profit, if there is legislation which ensures foundational levels of care, and these foundational levels represent high-quality care and are rigorously enforced, the driving force behind the company or organization running the care facility would not affect whether or not those living in that care facility are provided an acceptable quality of life. The Protection for Persons in Care act must be amended to include all providers of care whether public, not-for-profit or for-profit. Other recommendations made by the Parkland Institute, such as expanding the Canadian public health care system to encompass continuing care services, improving staff, creating a watchdog organization and increasing access to information about elder care are recommendations which the Alberta Council on Aging heartily supports.

To view the entire report online: http://parklandinstitute.ca/research/summary/from_bad_to_worse or call 780.492.8558 to order a copy of the entire report

Kristina Belyea and Donna Durand

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