The cost of nursing home services in the Province of NB has increased by 300% since 2000-2001 (from $110M to $313M per year). This means that nursing home services now comprise over 28% of the total budget of Social Development.
The portion of New Brunswickers aged 75 and older will double between 2016 and 2036, going from 62,100 individuals (8%) in 2016 to 134,700 (16.4%) in 2036. It is further estimated we will need 10,776 nursing home beds under the current model by 2036. As of March 31, 2015 we have 4,438 nursing home beds in NB.
Over the last 12 years we have tripled our expenses while only increasing the total number of beds by 322 or an average of 27 per year. Our projected need over the next 20 years would require 315 additional beds per year. (over 10 times our annual increase during the last 12 years). It is clear the current process of nursing home construction is neither affordable for the province, nor will it meet the forecasted demand. And, I ask you this: what senior wants to live out their days in an institution? Additionally, in 20 years time we would have many large redundant buildings located throughout the province that will no longer be required.
How do we meet the needs of these citizens with the resources we have here in NB? From the numbers above, we know the current service delivery model will not sustain the future demand.
My goal is to ensure that all seniors receive the quality of life they expect and deserve as they age. I do not have any plans, nor any desire to revisit this pre-2006 asset model. What we do need, is the help of NB seniors, the experts and the business community to set the right course. I have spoken to many seniors, as well as local and international experts, in my travels around the province over the past several years. In addition, I have also witnessed firsthand how poorly government manages our money and I have absolutely no desire to hand over my assets, or anyone else’s, to this poorly managed and wasteful system. There are a number of opportunities I would like to present to our seniors.
Opportunity 1 – Focus on supporting seniors to age in place.
We know that 88% of seniors want to remain at home with the necessary care and support. There is also a growing trend for couples to downsize their homes after their children have moved out, using the equity in their first home to finance a smaller dwelling or condominium. Given this reality it seems that we can meet and possibly even exceed both the expectations of seniors as well as the increasing demands for service that we have in front of us. I believe there is no replacement for having seniors live in their own home as long as practically possible. I also believe that seniors want to stay at home and have any required care or support come to them.
By focusing our efforts on redesigning housing and home care service delivery models – imagine a condo village or complex instead of building more nursing homes – seniors would continue to enjoy pride of ownership and independence by living in the homes they own for as long as possible. When their home is no longer needed, it can be sold just like any other home, and the appreciated value realized by the owner. A scenario like this one could result in an approximate 30% reduction in capital investments currently being made by the province. The capital dollars saved in this new model (approximately $90 million per year in current dollars) would allow an expanded home care/nursing care service within these complexes, which would see the level of care tailored to the specific needs of the residents.
Opportunity 2—Improving access to senior services
We must improve the coordination, efficiency and management of services to our seniors. This can be through better purchasing and employee practices and eliminating duplication in the system. Today it would seem that many improvements can be made through a closer alliance or possible mergence with the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. This must be closely evaluated.
My plan includes quality of life solutions made for seniors, by seniors, that will protect their assets as well as create a sustainable, quality senior care service delivery model for NB.