Dr. Eric Hoskins was in Etobicoke today to announce a $10-million funding increase to assist seniors with challenging and complex behaviours associated with dementia and other mental health issues.
“Seniors today are living longer and are enjoying better health than ever before, and we want to help them live where they want to be – and that’s in their homes for as long as possible,” the Minister of Health and Long Term Care told residents and staff of Eatonville Care Centre during his announcement Thursday, Aug. 18.
“But we also know there are challenges that come with aging that sometimes prevent that from happening. So it’s important that our system helps seniors grow old with dignity, no matter where they call home.
“To help us do that, we have to make the right investments, which is why I’m pleased to announce today that our government is increasing funding to Behavioural Supports Ontario by an additional $10 million.”
Launched in 2011, the Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) initiative was created to enhance health care services for older adults living both at home and in long-term care residences.
Through the BSO program, specialized teams improve the quality of life for people with chronic mental health conditions and their caregivers by identifying triggers that can lead to agitation or aggressive behaviours before they start.
The $10 million BSO funding boost will allow facilities like Eatonville to hire and train staff on how to recognize certain behaviours – such as aggression or wandering – amongst their residents with dementia, Hoskins said, noting that BSO methods have helped cut down the use of anti-psychotic drugs amongst such residents, as well as reduced the incidence of injury to their caregivers.
“Dementia is a cruel condition, robbing individuals of the things that make them who they are. It takes away their memories and their experiences and their ability to understand and communicate with the people that love and care for them,” he said.
“What’s remarkable about this program is it finds a way to break through those barriers. Special teams assess individual resident care plans and talk with their families to connect with the person behind the disease or illness and to improve their quality of life.”
According to Candace Chartier, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, seniors entering long-term care today are much more medically complex than they were even five years ago.
“The reality is that our seniors are getting older, they’re living longer, and as a result they need more care when they arrive at long-term care homes,” she said, noting 97 per cent of the residents currently living in Ontario’s long-term care homes have two or more diseases, and more than 60 per cent of them have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
“These challenges are within our sector and they’re not going away. That is why this investment today is so integral to the seniors that we care for in Ontario,” Chartier said of the $10-million funding increase to BSO.
“We would love to see every long-term care home in the province having a dedicated team focused on dementia, responsible for working so closely with those residents that need that extra help.”
Hoskins also announced that Ontario is also increasing funding for residents of long-term care homes by up to $60 million to better support resident care needs this year.
That investment is estimated to result in a two per cent increase for nursing and personal care allocations, and for program and support services, including physiotherapy and convalescent care.
And that, said Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker, is especially good news for his constituency – one that boasts one of the highest percentages of senior residents per capita in the country.
“In Etobicoke Centre I am proud to represent many seniors, and high-quality health care is a top priority in my community,” he said.
“That is why investments, like this one, in staff to care for seniors and others in our community, as well as to support their families, are so important.”