Care homes face tsunami’ of ageing seniors
Major investments in the island’s care home sector will be needed to cope with a “tsunami” of ageing seniors.
Patrice Horner, of specialist financial advice service Senior Solutions, said the development of affordable options to look after the growing elderly population was critical.
She said: “There are still people in the old hospital annex in the continuing care ward because there simply aren’t enough properly equipped facilities or ways to bring people home.
“There are people who cannot be supported by their families at home, so they are just left there.
“The need is extreme and we have been trying to really promote the vision of what it can be, why it’s important and how it can be more business sustainable.”
Seniors made up about 17 per cent of the population in 2016, but some estimates have predicted the figure could rise to 22 per cent by 2030.
A 2017 Government Long Term Action Plan said Bermuda’s 22 residential care homes had 90 per cent to 100 per cent occupancy and waiting lists.
Ms Horner said the island’s care home system emerged from Parish Homes, but the demand for senior care services had risen sharply when compared with the number of people in the island’s workforce.
She said: “There was a period where there was some development in senior homes.
“They were mostly charitable in nature and there were some shared homes that were encouraged by Age Concern.
“There was never any careful or co-ordinated thought put to it and, all of a sudden, the senior population is growing at a rapid pace — I call it a tsunami.”
Ms Horner added that some seniors had left the island because of a lack of adequate care options in Bermuda.
She said that, despite demand, there had been little growth in the sector and what had been put in place had not always been economically sustainable.
A 2018 government study found that residential long-term care homes in Bermuda struggled to break even because of the high cost of property, a lack of capital and high staffing requirements.
Ms Horner said the Covid-19 pandemic had underlined staff shortages by highlighting the number of nurses who worked at several homes.
She added that government agencies had worked hard to limit the spread of the coronavirus in care homes, but the incidents were a “wake-up call”.
She said: “There’s not enough nurses and they don’t make enough to make ends meet because the cost of living here is so high.
“We need to build care capacity. This is nursing. It’s caring for people.”
Ms Horner added that the Government had subsidised many care homes, but other ways to fund the sector had to be found.
She said a more business-minded approach could create a sustainable model for the island, but capital investment would be needed — along with a brighter vision of what senior care could be.
Ms Horner added: “They think of the Parish Homes and they don’t want to experience that, so they need to envision themselves in a seniors home that is fun, lively and far better than being at home alone.
“That’s what we need to create. We need to make people understand that it can be a reality in Bermuda.”
Ms Horner said Senior Solutions had developed plans to develop three levels of care for the elderly.
She said: “A needs analysis for the Bermuda populace, based on a professional assessment, indicates Bermuda can support an independent senior community, a day-care with respite centre and a memory care facility.”
Ms Horner estimated that the respite centre plan — earmarked for a location near the Leopards Club — could cost $10 million to build, renovate and furnish and that the memory care centre could cost between $10 million and $15 million.
But she added: “We believe that if we can get some spark capital, we can get the ball rolling.
“We have larger investors who are investing in real estate or other businesses who are interested, but they are saying you need to demonstrate to us there is an interest in the community by having some financial commitment made.”
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: “The Government remains committed to expanding long-term care capacity both through home care and residential care.
“The Personal Home Care Benefit for HIP and FutureCare clients has been invaluable to this population and we are committed to expanding it as part of broader health reforms.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health added that officials were aware of the problems and were working on them.
She said: “With an ageing population, this is a priority for the Government.
“Significantly, long-term care is not exclusively about rest home beds, but about a full range of services to enable seniors to age at home and age in place to the greatest extent possible.”
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