How Will Governments Handle Growing Senior Demand for Home and Community Care?

The home and community care sector will need to accommodate an exploding number of people who want to receive care services in their own homes, but the government’s role in responding to this demand is unclear.

How the Canadian government responds to significantly growing demand for home and community care could have implications for its sister to the South, especially as both countries share similar aging demographics.

“The demand for home and community care is certain to grow in the coming decades,” writes the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care in its recent report, Home and Community Care in Canada: An Economic Footprint. “Understandably, the sector is on the radar of governments, but the future shape of the footprint is still unknown.”

Canada’s 65+ population is expected to represent up to 25% of the population by 2036, up from 14% in 2009, according to Statistics Canada data. Its 80+ population, meanwhile, is projected to increase from 1.3 million to 3.3 million in the same time period.

Those projections are important, the CASHC notes, because seniors are the most frequent users of home and community care. Additionally, chronic diseases are more prevalent among the elderly, and often require home- and community-based supports.

“Generally, people prefer to be supported in their home rather than in an institution such as a hospital or long-term care facility,” says the report. “The growing demand for home and community care services needs to be accompanied by enough supply of the right type of worker employed in the formal or “paid” part of the sector.”

A substantial amount of care is given by private sources, as opposed to by the government, but it’s unclear how sustainable it will be to rely on family and friends to provide unpaid care, the report says. That’s why it’s important for governments, employers, and insurers to be considering a variety of scenarios for the future of home and community care.

In 2010, spending on home and community care ranged between $8.9 billion and $10.5 billion, or about 5% of Canada’s total health spending. And similar to in the U.S., much home care is given by family caregivers or other private sources (about 25%), rather than financed by the government.

The home and community care sector is certain to grow, the report concludes, but it’s unknown whether the sector is prepared to adapt to this growth.

“Coordinated planning and investments from colleges, universities, and regulatory and professional associations will be needed,” it says. “To take action on the evidence of the cost-effectiveness of substitution of services, health leaders responsible for publicly funded home and community care need to tailor their programs to ensure the appropriate services are delivered and resources are used optimally.”

Read the full report here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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