Montreal — Canada needs a dedicated strategy to reduce the burden of navigating health and social services for older Canadians and their caregivers. Currently, the onus is on patients and their families to navigate unintegrated and uncoordinated care systems. This poses challenges for equitable access to vital services, says a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Older Canadians with chronic illnesses and those who care for them are regularly discouraged by the efforts required to access fragmented health services, says author Laura Funk. The challenges are rooted in care systems that download administrative tasks onto patients and their families, leaving it to them to find their way to needed services. This burden is further compounded by the lack of service information and coordination among public providers.
These challenges are often most profound for those who cannot rely on help from family members or friends. And for caregivers, Funk notes, the navigation work involved in overcoming these obstacles often entails significant economic and social costs, including time they might have spent in paid employment or other care activities.
“Navigating health services must be transformed from a private struggle into a public responsibility,” she says. “More support is key, not only for improving the well-being of older adults, but also for preventing burnout among caregivers.” Funk proposes a three-pronged strategy: improve service information, provide more integrated care services, and establish formal navigator programs. Advocating for more navigation support could raise governments’ awareness of navigation hurdles and encourage better service integration.
Relieving the Burden of Navigating Health and Social Services for Older Adults and Caregivers, by Laura Funk, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e‑mail list.
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