He’s calling it “the project of a generation,” and within 20 years, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault wants to replace the entire network of long-term care facilities in Quebec at an estimated cost of $20 billion in today’s dollars.
Is that really what Quebec seniors want at this time?
In fact, major associations earlier this year spelled out what they want, and it’s a long way from the CAQ’s grandiose scheme to replace all CHSLD with “maisons des aînés,” each hosting 70-130 residents, with 30 homes to be built in the first four years at cost of $1 billion.
Five groups that are part of FADOQ (Fédération de l’Âge d’Or du Québec), which claims to speak for some 700,000 Quebecers in the 50-plus demographic, have put forward more modest aims that could be undertaken immediately.
For example, among 16 demands, they asked that RAMQ, the province’s medicare system, cover costly inoculations for seniors to prevent shingles, which can be painful and last for months.
They asked that the public system cover the cost of a second hearing aid, rather than the current system that covers only one hearing aid for seniors after being tested by audiologists for hearing loss.
They want free parking for visitors to residents of long-term care facilities as a way of combating isolation. Parking can cost up to $30, officials said.
There is no costing of this wish list, they are not headline grabbers, but practical and immediate changes that can improve the lives of many seniors at a relatively modest cost, compared to the CAQ’s $20 billion adventure. Judith Gagnon, the Quebec City-based president of the 30,000-member Association Québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées (AQDR), did not dismiss the CAQ plans, but emphasized that smaller homes for long-term care patients is appropriate for certain seniors such as those with Alzheimer’s. Such homes exist in B.C. and Holland.
“This proposal cannot be seen in isolation. It has to be looked at as part of the bigger picture of services offered to seniors. We cannot say that this (CAQ plan) is a panacea, because above all we need to support and maintain home care.
“There is a shortage of attendants in senior residences. We need to put this project in socio-economic context, and above all, we want the concerns of seniors to become a national priority.”
FADOQ also seeks action in these areas:
- Each regional health and social services agency should have a fixed fund to support home care, based on health and social services department criteria.
- Standardized criteria for admissibility to home-care programs for such services as bathing, a 15 percent increase in the numbers accepted for the program, and ensuring that requests be considered for at least six months.
- Better and standardized training for professionals, such as social workers and dieticians, who work with seniors.
- Transportation costs should be covered by RAMQ for volunteers that accompany low-income seniors to medical appointments.
- Financial support, or RAMQ coverage, rather than an income tax rebates for low-income seniors to purchase dentures, renewable every five years.
- Financial support, or RAMQ coverage, for low-income seniors to purchase, replace, or adjust glasses every five years and for eye exams in order to renew driving permits.
- Increase to $5,000 from $2,500 of the death benefit payable to the surviving spouse.
- Medical expenses should be deductible for each spouse in a marriage, as it is with the federal tax form, rather than together as a couple, as it is now calculated for Quebec tax income tax.
- Reducing the waiting period to 12 months from 24 months for admissibility into the Quebec government program to adapt homes so seniors can live in greater safety.