Seniors’ Month turns 32 this year


2016 marks the 32nd anniversary of Seniors’ Month, which recognizes the important role seniors play in our communities.  This year’s theme is “Seniors Making a Difference.”

Seniors in Canada are living longer and healthier lives than previous generations. In 2014, over 6 million Canadians were aged 65 or older, representing 15.6 percent of Canada’s population. By 2030—in less than two decades—seniors will number over 9.5 million and make up 23 percent of Canadians. Additionally, by 2036, the average life expectancy at birth for women will rise to 86.2 years from the current 84.2 and to 82.9 years from the current 80 for men.

While many seniors lead fulfilling lives without significant physical or cognitive changes, aging can be debilitating. Physical ailments, mobility issues, chronic pain, cognitive and sensory impairments can affect one’s functional ability. Other challenges such as retirement, changes in income, widowhood, the loss of friendships through death, and new caregiving responsibilities can lead to social and emotional isolation. Research indicates that promoting and maintaining mental health among seniors has a positive impact on their overall health and well-being and significantly affects quality of life.

In 2011, 92 percent of seniors in Canada lived in a private home. Recent Government of Canada investments in affordable and social housing, age-friendly communities, support for caregivers and programs to combat homelessness are helping seniors stay in their own homes and remain physically and socially active.

Many communities have services just for seniors. These include:

  • adult day programs – including social, fitness and other healthy activities;
  • transportation services – for people who don’t have public transportation or need help to use it;
  • community hospice services – including counselling, support groups, yoga and art classes, grief support;
  • residential hospices – where end-of-life care is provided in a home-like environment for those who can no longer stay in their own homes. People in residential hospices receive a wide range of palliative services to keep them comfortable.

SEIU Healthcare is proud of our members who support and assist our senior citizens and we wish everyone a happy Seniors’ Month.


This job isn’t for everyone – our Heroes of Homecare


Ontarians depend on the support our Personal Support Workers (PSWs) provide every day. We want everyone to understand the skilled care, love and compassion they provide.

This job isn’t for everyone; it takes a special kind of person to do their job. They are our Heroes of Homecare. Our healthcare system couldn’t operate without them. That’s why we’re asking those who receive care from a PSW and your families to tell us how your PSW helps you retain your independence in your own home and why this is important to you.

It’s easy – just visit our website and tell us your homecare story in your own words. #RiseForHomecare

Heroes of Homecare


I became a PSW to help seniors stay in their home as long as they could. To give dignity and kindness and love. So many seniors fall through the cracks because they have no one to help, or family, or they are too proud to ask. I try to make their day good and happy, and make them feel good about themselves.

Giselle Ralph, PSW

I love helping people who can’t help themselves. To be able to earn the trust of your clients even when everything around them seems to be disappearing such as their spouse, health or independence is a great gift.

Darla Fiset, PSW

Calling all families of homecare


When I was 11 years old, there was a fire at my house and my little sister, who was 10 at the time was badly burned. 80% of her body was covered with scar tissue and it took a lot of sensitive skin grafting to heal her. Afterwards, I took care of her. I helped with her physio, changed her dressings, prepared her medications because she couldn’t do it for herself and help her dress. As a burn victim she had to wear special clothing all over her entire body.

That’s why I became a PSW. Through caring for my sister, I found I wanted to help others. Someone has to do it. This happened in the mid-1980s and there weren’t homecare services like we have today. As a front line PSW I can give people the assistance they need to keep their lifestyles as they were before the ailment hit them. Andy Elliot, Personal Support Worker

The truth is, many of us probably don’t even realize that homecare impacts us. But think about your neighbours, parents, grandparents and friends. How do they survive day to day? Chances are they are a homecare recipient. In other words, someone comes to their home on a regular basis to support their living, whether it’s a bath, cleaning up after them, feeding them, doing their laundry, and so on (though we know that homecare workers do so much more than that).

When was the last time you checked in to see what type of care your loved ones have received? Often times we don’t, because we are confident that our families are receiving some of the best care under the wing of frontline homecare workers such as Andy.

Andy’s story above is one of the many reasons why it’s important we, as a collective whole, rise for homecare. People who are or will be impacted by homecare are all around you: the person sitting next to you on the bus, driving alongside you on the highway, standing in front of you in the lunch line- all of these folks either know someone who has received homecare or will one day need these services themselves. But PSWs aren’t the only ones with stories- families of homecare have some of the most touching accounts. That’s why we are calling on families of homecare to come forward and join the movement. Tell us how your life has been impacted by homecare; it’s time we hear from you.


The Golden Age?

June is Senior’s Month, a time to consider the health and welfare of an important and growing percentage of the Canadian population, as well as preparing for the future generation of seniors following quickly behind. Currently, there are over 7.7 million Canadians over the age of 60. The image below shows how that demographic is set to explode in the coming decades.

Population graphic

The Global AgeWatch Index by is the first ever index to measure countries by how well their older populations are faring. According to the index, Canada ranks fourth in the world (overall and for health), just behind Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The US ranks eighth. This index shows that currently, the average 60-year-old Canadian can expect to live an additional 25 years beyond this number, however only 18.3 of those years will be spent in good health. That leaves a shortfall of 6.7 years when each person’s need for healthcare will be greatly increased. We are already realizing a tremendous strain on the healthcare system in 2015 as hospitals face staffing freezes and a growing need for more money to provide workers and services. Combine this with the figures of an expanding elderly population and it is evident that something must be done very quickly.

Canada ranks 4th in the world, but for how long?

Years in good health The Telegraph reported in 2012 that “increasing longevity is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. People live longer because of improved nutrition, sanitation, medical advancements, healthcare, education and economic well-being.” In Britain, one third of all children born in 2012 are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday. Does this mean we raise the age of seniors (Canada already recently increased the retirement age from 65 to 67) or can we fund seniors who may spend 30, 40, or even 50 years in retirement?

Maybe I’m just being pessimistic. They call the senior years the “golden years,” but I’m just worried that the money might run out and they will be more like “tin-foil years” for me.

We must look forward to the future of healthcare and the time is now to take action. That is why SEIU Healthcare has launched the Rise for Homecare campaign. We’re looking for you to share your stories with us as a PSW, a client receiving homecare, or family member of someone receiving homecare. You can also take action by signing and sending a letter to your MPP to ask for his/her support on this important issue. Visit and you’re just a click away from making your voice heard.


We Need A Stronger Homecare System

The demand on healthcare services is growing. According to the recent report published by the Conference Board of Canada in April 2015 called Understanding Health and Social Services for Seniors in Canada, it explains how the growing number of seniors are driving up demand for healthcare services.

The number of seniors who need healthcare is much higher than their younger counterparts. The amount of money spent on someone’s health needs in their 80s is much higher than someone in their 20s, 30s or 40s. And the number of seniors is growing.

In 1971, 8 percent of Canadians were 65 and older. In 2011 that number increased to 15 percent. By 2036 that number is projected to increase to a whopping 25 percent. Not only does that mean the number of Canadians who require large amounts of health spending is going to increase, the number people who are of working age (ages 15 to 64) is dropping. That means we have a smaller tax base to raise the money we need to properly care for our growing senior’s health needs. Right now there are 5 working Canadians for every senior. By 2030 that number will drop by nearly half to 2.7.

That’s why we need a stronger homecare system to look after the needs of our aging population. SEIU Healthcare has recently launched a campaign called Rise for Homecare. As demand for homecare grows, we need to build a homecare system that looks after our seniors properly.

Rise with us. Rise for Homecare!


Drugs vs. Direct Care: Is a minimum care standard a solution to the current woes facing long term care?

When I walked in to the office this morning I stood face to face with this article on the front page of the Toronto Star – an intimate portrayal of the medicating culture that has taken over long-term care (LTC) homes.

The article brings to light the use of antipsychotic drugs on elderly patients, and questions the alarming rate at which these medications are being administered. According to The Star, “At more than 40 homes across the province, roughly half the residents are on the drugs.” Half! On antipsychotic drugs: medication, The Star claims, that is being used to treat a condition or age group that it’s not approved for. In the article, they cite these drugs as “extremely powerful”, “not proven to work for seniors” and as having “horrible side effects” such as violence, confusion, and [some might suggest] death.

Though much of the article focuses on whether it is even appropriate to prescribe such medications, it also raises the questions around staffing, resources and patient care. Why are seemingly harmless residents being prescribed life-threatening medication, when staff members are unable to “cope” with their behaviour?

According to Statistics Canada, total paid hours of care (including non-direct care) per resident, per day in residential care facilities in Ontario was 3.3 in 1997/98 with a small increase to 3.8 in 2005/06. According to this data, Ontario is second last across the country for total hours per resident/day. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says that paid hours of care in 2012 were 3.43 per resident per day.

The number of paid hours takes into account hours paid for vacation, sick days and personal time. Therefore, “worked hours of care per resident per day” better reflects how many hours of care a resident actually received. According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, average worked hours of direct care per resident, per day was 2.375 in 2004 and 2.573 in 2006. We estimate that this number corresponds to no more than 2.9 hours of direct care per resident per day in 2012. For reference, in 2008, the government of Ontario commissioned a report on the long term sector, ‘People Caring for People’, authored by Shirley Sharkee. The report recommended 4 hours of direct care per person per day.

An obvious reality is that staff members are unable to respond to the needs of the residents, because of the shortages in caring staff and because of the increasingly complex needs of the residents. For example, 83% of residents in 2011 had “high” or “very high” care needs compared to 72% in 2007. That’s an 11% increase in residents of high need within a period of four years.

Research shows that incidents of violence occur most often when residents are not receiving direct care. And so it seems that some nursing homes that have shortage in staff, are regularly giving seniors these risky drugs to calm and “restrain” wandering, agitated and aggressive seniors. Medicating them with these strong medications seems to be an attempt to control their natural response to the neglect they face in a long-term care home.

The Star article goes on to write that “after a 2011 Star investigation into widespread abuse and neglect in Ontario nursing homes, the government spent $59 million to hire more than 600 employees and train 34,000. The efforts appear to have done little to ease most nursing homes’ reliance on these powerful drugs…”

In spite of successive years of funding increases to the LTC home sector, there has not been a similar increase in daily hands-on care provision. The vast majority of funding increases has gone towards building institutional capacity (either building more institutions or renovating older ones) rather than improving the amount of daily care for existing residents and addressing the urgent quality of care issues.

In January of this year, SEIU Healthcare made the following proposal at the 2014 Pre-Budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs:

A five-year implementation schedule that would begin in 2014 with an immediate establishment of a minimum care standard of 3.5 hours of direct care per resident, per day, with the target of a 4.0 hours of direct care per resident by 2019. The standard should cover direct care staff including RPNs and PSWs, excluding administrative staff. It should be attached to the Nursing and Personal Care funding envelope – excluding incontinence supplies. It should reflect worked hours as opposed to paid hours and should be subject to compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

Staffing levels are crucial to providing sound care, preventing abuse and neglect, ensuring the safety of residents and care workers, and improving the quality of life of residents. A minimum staffing standard will ensure accountability and compliance for all LTC homes in Ontario to deliver a specific amount of daily care for which they are funded.

S.R.S and A.B.