Recently, two older married couples made headlines in Canada for refusing to be separated by long-term care. In both cases, one spouse could not be admitted to the same facility because their health status did not require the same level of care.
This forced separation has had negative impacts on the couples’ emotional health, on top of the long drive that created a physical barrier. A petition was started to advocate for policy change that allows for cohabitation of older spouses with differing health needs – however, the Government of Manitoba (Canada) has responded with a statement indicating that this would not be possible as it would decrease access for Manitobans with higher care needs.
The experiences of these couples in Manitoba are not unique, but serve as a strong example for the ways in which health systems are behind in delivering patient-centred care. In this case, the system has failed to acknowledge two realities: older persons are not all the same, and that health care decisions can have unintended harmful implications on social wellbeing.
According to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Ageing and Health, health systems around the world are encountering the same need to re-align to fit the diverse needs of older persons with varying functional abilities and health statuses. Identifying innovative health policy solutions that help older couples age in place is an important step towards preventing social isolation. One leading expert in this field is Prof. Tine Rostgaard – a Danish academic who offers expertise on the best ways to improve the quality of care for older people in European health systems.
Prof. Tine Rostgaard Professor in Older People and Citizenship
Professor Rostgaard's research contributions have mainly been to the field of social care policies for children and older people