Acknowledging older peoples diverse needs to improve long-term careJanuary 11, 20192 min read
In Canada, the ageing population is rising, comprising approximately 20% of the population in 2016. Health infrastructure has not caught up to the growth of an ageing population, commonly leaving long-term care reform a subject of discussion.
According to the 2016 Canadian Census (Statistics Canada), 6.8% of Canadians aged 65 years and older are living in a long-term care facility or seniors’ residence and this proportion rises to 30.0% among Canadians aged 85 years and older. As these numbers continue to increase, the need for tailored services to address older people’s diverse backgrounds and experiences becomes more pressing.
Older people should be able to access services that address their needs, yet consistently this is not the case. According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, one of the needs not currently being addressed is the need for French (and other) language services.
“There is currently one long-term bed for every 170 Ontarians among the general population [and]…only one long-term bed for every 3,400 francophones in the Greater Toronto Area.” - Sylvie Lavoie, quoted from the Globe and Mail
For an ageing population that is already marginalized by experiences of ageism and a lack of adequate services to support ageing, accessing long-term care in the language of their preference is crucial. This is firstly because familiar language provides comfort amidst major life changes, and second because offering residents support in their own language is a step in recognizing older people as individuals with unique experiences.
According to Dr. Sarah Bowen, also quoted in the Globe and Mail, indicates that the presence of language barriers within long-term care is perhaps a symptom of a larger issue wherein the needs of older adults are not regularly considered, leaving them vulnerable to mistreatment.
“When care providers and patients can’t speak the same language, it poses risks not only to the patient, but to the entire system.” - Dr. Sarah Bowen, quoted from the Globe and Mail
Are language barriers a problem in your local community?
Get in touch with experts who can help to shed light on the issue and provide knowledge on ways forward. For example, Dr Sandra Hirst is an expert on the experiences of older people in long-term care and can speak to the need for services adapted to fit the needs of residents. For Canadians, Dr Pat Armstrong is an expert in long-term care reform and can speak to the need to improve long-term care services in Canada.
Dr. Sandra Hirst Director
A career spent building capacity in the field of gerontological nursing and improving benchmarks in support of professional nursing practice
Dr. Pat Armstrong Professor
Dr. Armstrong's work focuses on the fields of social policy, of women, work and the health and social services.