Long Term Care: Not Age but Function
Generally when we think of “long term care,” our mind automatically goes to senior citizens living in nursing homes. But long term care isn’t a matter of age; it’s a matter of function. There are many Canadians currently living in long term care facilities who are not elderly but nonetheless require round the clock long term care.
Who are these younger Canadians who require long term care, and why are they living in long term care facilities?
One in five Canadians suffer from some sort of mental health issue, ranging from chronic depression and addiction, to full-blown schizophrenia and other serious mental diseases. Mental illness plays a part in 50% of long term care claims.
For example, a higher percentage of hospital beds in Canada are used to treat schizophrenia than any other disease, mental of physical. Given this fact, it is no wonder that psychiatrists and other members of the public in Alberta cringe at proposed reductions of regional hospital beds. While health ministers insist that not one bed will be cut until a new long term home is arranged for mentally ill patients, they also admit that they don’t yet have any new placement options for them.
Another group of young Canadians who require long term care in a hospital or other long term care facility are those suffering from severe physical disabilities that require constant treatment.
Multiple sclerosis is an example of one such disease. Approximately 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians live with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease that gradually takes away a person’s ability to use his or her body. While multiple sclerosis patients initially can manage daily tasks, as the disease progresses, they often find themselves in a wheelchair, requiring round-the-clock care. The disease usually strikes between the ages of fifteen and forty. It would not be unusual, then, for a person in their mid-forties to require acute long term care. For MS patients without family or friends to care for them, living in a long term care facility is often the only option.