Senior Frailty and the New Health Accord

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Advocates for Canada’s seniors will be watching closely this week as the federal Liberal government meets in Sudbury to plan for the fall session of parliament. Based on the finding of a recent Ipsos survey conducted by the Canadian Medical Association, 84% of Canadians ranked the need for a national seniors strategy as very or somewhat important.

The following excerpts, from a recent article by John Muscedere and Samir Sinha appearing on the Evidence Network website, provide important insight into the need to accommodate specific challenges facing many Canadian seniors:

“When the previous Health Accord expired in 2014, the Harper government unilaterally established a new funding model for federal health transfer payments to the provinces and territories based on an equal per capita basis. Built into the model was a guarantee that no province would receive less than its 2013 transfer amount with a further guaranteed minimum three percent growth rate from 2017 onward. So, what’s not to love?

Plenty. The truth is, in a country as diverse and varied as Canada, such a per capita funding model creates winners and losers. For provinces with flourishing economies and/or younger populations, the formula may be a welcome one. But for many provinces and territories, this funding formula fails to recognize and accommodate their particular challenges and needs. This is because per capita models fundamentally ignore the sometimes extreme variations in socio-economic, demographic and health status of regional populations across Canada — a significant oversight.”

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“Frailty is common in our aging population but it remains highly under-recognized. It’s estimated that over one million Canadians are clinically frail. Clinical frailty can occur at any age and describes individuals who are in precarious health, have significant multiple health impairments and are at higher risk of dying. The hallmark of frailty is that minor illnesses such as infections or minor injuries which would be handled easily by non-frail individuals may trigger major deteriorations in health.”

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“Systematically recognizing frailty in Canadians and targeting federal health funding based in part on frailty would both help those provinces and territories who have more significant health and social care needs in this area, but also flag the issue of frailty as one that needs to be urgently addressed across the country.”

John Muscedere is Scientific Director and CEO of Canadian Frailty Network (CFN), an interdisciplinary network dedicated to improving care of frail elderly Canadians. He is also a critical care physician at Kingston General Hospital.

Samir Sinha is Director of Geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto, Co-Chair of the National Institute on Ageing’s Advisory Board, and a member of the CFN Research Management Committee.

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