Personal Best: Group advocates for seniors

Council of Senior Organizations of BC is a seniors' advocacy group that now has 100,000 members

COSCO, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC, is a province-wide organization that represents many groups and associated individuals and has just reached the 100,000 mark for members.

This is a powerful and active seniors’ advocacy group that has been in operation for more than 50 years. They have worked unceasingly with the provincial government to maintain and increase benefits for seniors and to change the government mindset by seeing seniors as an asset and not a liability and also urging government to not plan for seniors but to plan with seniors.

One of the basic priorities that COSCO is vigorously lobbying the government for is universal home support based on need, available seven days a week to seniors and people with disabilities so that people can stay in their own homes as long as they want. Such a service, they contend, would make it possible for thousands of seniors to live with dignity and respect in their own homes, at a much lower cost than acute or residential care and it would strengthen our overall public health system by reducing the pressure on acute care hospitals.

The Ombudspersons report, issued in February of 2012, focused on key areas where changes should be made and 176 recommendations were put forward. Foremost was that the government assist seniors to continue to live at home by improving and extending the current home support services. According to the BC Health Coalition as of April 2013, only four of the recommendations have been fully met.

According to their website, Interior Health’s Home Support Services are offered to help seniors​ with chronic health conditions, disabilities or terminal illness remain at home safely and independently. Community health workers provide home support services such as bathing, dressing and grooming, special exercises, medication administration and other care needs. They are trained, screened and insured, and their services meet established standards. In my experience they do a good job given their limited budget and staff cuts and provide the services they are mandated to provide. They also offer support and relief for primary caregivers.

One of the problems here is that many seniors with disabilities are their own primary caregivers and are limited in performing daily household tasks that we know are essential to maintaining good health and personal well being. Many of those vital basic household needs are not provided for by home support services such as house cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, rehabilitation equipment/aids, driving to appointments, companions, foot care. Yet they are as essential to living as bathing or personal care. Their Web site also goes on to say that for the services that Home Support Services does not provide they would be pleased to connect seniors to a list of places that do provide them. These are services that you must pay for. So if you are financially able you get the services you need and if you are unable to pay, and one-third of seniors are on limited incomes, you do without, or must go into an assisted living institution. Another perfect example of equal opportunity that our government says is in place for all seniors. Bah!

COSCO has again and again pushed the government to implement a universal program of home care and support that would be broadened and based on all individual needs that would really keep seniors in their home longer. They have done the math and see this as a way to reduce the intake into expensive residential forms of care and decrease unnecessary use of hospital beds and care. To get more information about COSCO call Ernie Bayer 1-604-576-9734.

If you have any comments or questions call 250-542-7928 or e-mail blackmail1@telus.net

Pat Black writes about issues of concern to seniors in the North Okanagan. Her column appears every other Sunday.

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