Shaping tomorrow’s continuum of care for our Veterans
Ottawa, Ontario - June 23, 2016
Long-Term Care (LTC) has become a hot topic in the media in recent days. The reporting is often emotionally-charged as it deals with meeting the end-of-life needs of elderly Veterans. Without wading into the specifics of the particular cases being struggled with today, these cases do highlight a systemic issue related to the care that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veterans will require as they age over the next few decades. How do we shape tomorrow to meet the evolving needs of our modern day Veterans?
The current LTC programs were developed in the years following the Second World War when no publicly-funded health-care system was available. The CAF Veteran population’s needs are different than those of the War Service (WS) Veteran population that served in the 20th century. VAC estimates that in 2016, 702 CAF Veterans are receiving long-term care support from VAC, and this number is rising – an increase of 64 percent since 2012.
In 2014, my Office published a document entitled Veterans' Long-Term Care Needs: A Review of Assisted Living Options for Veterans. While the LTC program and the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) each address specific health-care needs for Veterans, a gap exists in cases where it is no longer medically advisable or safe for a Veteran to reside at home because of failing health or increasing care requirements. Many aging Veterans, however, are not unhealthy or disabled to an extent that would require them to be cared for in a long-term care facility, but their needs may also not be adequately met.
I believe that within the context of the overall review of VAC benefits now underway, VAC needs to take a serious look at all supports provided to aging Veterans to see if it is meeting their needs. An evidence-based continuum of care strategy needs to be developed that addresses the full spectrum of care needs as modern-day Veterans age. This strategy should consider programs that provide support and options to aging Veterans and their families. In addition to current programs such as VIP and LTC, I would propose that VAC starts looking at other initiatives. For example, the addition of an assisted living option and a family caregiver benefit that provides remuneration and training for family members who sacrifice their lives, careers and income to look after an ill or injured Veteran – both of which may better meet the health-care needs of Veterans.
Without a coherent strategy to ensure that VAC is meeting the needs of aging CAF Veterans, there will continue to be questions about the adequacy of support to a vulnerable, aging Veteran population. I hope that VAC takes advantage of this unique opportunity to shape tomorrow for Canada’s Veterans and their families.
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