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Thursday, 21 March 2013 05:54

Seniors’ tour was enlightening for Alberta MLA

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Editor:

Recently I wrapped up a two-week, 23-town tour across Alberta to try to understand seniors’ issues.
Seniors’ issues are some of the most complex and misunderstood issues that are out there. I hoped to grapple with what seniors are facing in this province and hear ideas and solutions from seniors themselves on how to fix any problems they may be facing.
I was not disappointed. I started the tour in Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt, in the constituency of the Associate Minister of Seniors, a fitting place to start if I do say so. From there I went through the Lakeland to Lloydminster, down through Stettler, Drumheller, Brooks, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer and a handful of other towns.
This tour and the chance to meet with so many seniors and care givers has been amazing.
From the thousands of people this tour has put me in contact with, a few key themes emerged.
First, I am delighted at the response I’ve received to my private member’s bill I will be putting forward this spring: Bill 208: The Seniors’ Advocate Act.
Seniors have told me they want access to an independent advocate who can raise concerns specific to seniors directly to the government, and that is exactly what my bill will do. I will be calling on all parties to support this bill, as it will make a difference in identifying and fixing problems seniors face when accessing services, whether from Alberta Health Services or another arm of the government.
The second thing I heard repeatedly, unfortunately, is that sometimes family members don’t feel comfortable taking their concerns about care a family member is receiving to AHS. They fear retaliation. This is most unfortunate.
In their golden years, seniors need their families to speak up for them when needed to ensure they are receiving the proper care. This is something my private member’s bill could help address by giving family members somewhere to go to address situations that require some help.
Another concern I heard, especially in the north, is related to the relocating of Medevac services to the Edmonton International Airport. There is the worry the additional 40 to 50 minutes to get to a hospital from the Edmonton International will cost lives of northern residents.
Seniors I spoke with also favoured the idea of physician support when planning aging care, and they want couples to be able to spend their later years together. That seems like a simple request, but unfortunately many couples are being divorced by nursing home policies, which sees families torn apart when one spouse is sent hundreds of kilometers away for a continuing care placement.
Another frequent topic was the once-per-week bathing policy of AHS. Fortunately, after pressure from seniors groups in recent months, the policy has been changed to two baths per week. It wasn’t long ago that the government claimed one bath a week was entirely appropriate.
 It shouldn’t take months of political pressure and public outrage fora government to do the right thing when it comes to the dignity and health of Alberta seniors.
These are some of the concerns I heard. I would like to encourage people to get in contact on Facebook and to send me any feedback they may have on seniors’ issues.
Kerry Towle, MLA for Innisfail – Sylvan Lake, Wildrose Official Opposition Seniors Critic

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