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New report highlights serious problems with elder care in Alberta

A new report by the Parkland Institute — a research centre within the University of Alberta — raised serious concerns about elder care in Alberta, and called into question the government’s policies of privatization, offloading and cutbacks.

November 7, 2013  By Mari-Len De

The report, From Bad to Worse: Residential elder care in Alberta , drew
on quantitative data from Statistics Canada’s Residential Care
Facilities Survey and qualitative data from the reports of Alberta’s
Health Facilities Review Committee. It also made use of conversations
with government and industry representatives, labour unions, seniors’
advocates and front-line workers.

“We set out to explore the
consequences of two major shifts in elder care over recent years: the
move from long-term care to assisted living, and the drastic rise in
delivery by for-profit businesses,” said Shannon Stunden Bower, report
co-author and research director at Parkland Institute. “We found these
shifts are associated with a decline in care availability, accessibility
and quality, as well as more difficult working conditions for Albertans
employed in the elder care field.”

The report raised several concerns and provided evidence that:

there is a significant gap between the staffing levels in Alberta
facilities and the staffing levels required to ensure dignity and
• while there are problems in public and not-for-profit
elder care facilities (as found in Alberta and other jurisdictions), the
situation is far more dire in for-profit facilities. Alberta for-profit
facilities fell short of the staffing benchmark associated with
reasonable quality elder care by well over 90 minutes of care per
resident, per day;
• significant offloading has left many elderly
Albertans and their support networks struggling to cope with burdens,
both financial and otherwise; burdens that at one time would have been
alleviated by the provincial government.

“The evidence reinforces
the myriad anecdotal stories in the news of late about problems with
elder care,” said report co-author David Campanella. “It is also
important to point out that all of these problems come during a period
when private long-term care and assisted living facilities are
generating rates of return to investors significantly higher than those
generated by the U.S. stock market.”


The report provided a number
of policy recommendations that would improve both the accessibility and
quality of elder care.  Some of these recommendations include expanding
Canada’s public health-care system to include institutional and
home-based elder care, improving staffing levels, phasing out private
for-profit elder care, and the creation of a provincial elders’ advocate
to monitor care and report to the legislature.

“It’s clear that
the provincial government’s current policies are negatively affecting
the well-being of Albertans,” said Stunden Bower. “What is required is
the political will to change directions.”

The Parkland Institute
is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of
Arts at the University of Alberta.  The report From Bad to Worse is
available for download on the Parkland website at

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