frail seniors hospital malpractice lawyers

Photo credit: Nicu Buculei/Flickr

Canada’s population is aging rapidly: according to Statistics Canada, July 2015 was the first month in the country’s history when people older than 65 outnumbered those younger than fifteen. Seniors are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population, and as their numbers swell, so too will the nation’s healthcare costs. In 2011, continuing care for seniors cost $28.3-billion; by 2026, it is expected to cost $62.3-billion, and should balloon to $177.3-billion by 2046.

For hospital malpractice lawyers, this number is concerning considering the questionable standard of care many seniors receive in 2016.

“If we keep paying the way we do on the public side, we’re talking about growth of 5.5 per cent a year for this component of health care,” said Conference Board of Canada vice-president of public policy Louis Theriault, in an interview with the CBC. “The whole economy is supposed to grow about 4.1 per cent. That is a gap that imposes some hard decisions on how we manage provincial budgets.”

Economics aren’t the only risk-factor for Canada’s older citizens. To accommodate a drastically growing senior population, the number of people working in continuing care must grow from approximately 5.3 million today to around 11.6 million in 2026.

Frail seniors are particularly vulnerable

Complicating the general aging of Canada’s population will be the expected increase in “medically frail” seniors.

John Muscedere, CEO of the Canadian Frailty Network, and Fred Horne, former Alberta health minister, recently penned a CBC article addressing frailty in Canada. They define frailty as “a state of increased vulnerability, with reduced reserve and loss of function across multiple body systems.” Frailty, they say, “reduces the ability to cope with normal or minor stresses, such as infections, which can cause rapid and dramatic changes in healthy.”

Today, frail seniors generally receive excellent acute and emergency care at Canadian hospitals, but experience gaps in care between hospital visits. According to Muscedere and Horne, approximately 25 per cent of Canada’s 65-plus population and 50 per cent of its 85-plus population can be considered medically frail. They are treated, the authors say, with a variety of therapies which are largely untested and may not be beneficial or cost-effective. For hospital malpractice lawyers, injuries caused by over-prescription or false diagnoses are all too common.

“Without evidence,” Muscedere and Horne write, “aggressive and expensive therapies are often over-used without improving outcomes, resulting in poor quality of life and wasted healthcare resources.” The redirection of some of those resources to chronic care, comprehensive home care, continuous care, and transition periods between care settings and providers could dramatically improve life for Canada’s frail seniors.

Helping seniors can help the rest of us

In a February 2016 article for Hospital News, the Canadian Medical Association’s Dr. Cindy Forbes argues for a ‘national seniors strategy,’ with a focus on patient-centred care of seniors that takes place outside of hospitals.

“Access to high-quality care in the community is limited, hospitals are jammed – often with senior patients waiting for placement in a nursing home – and wait times for tests and procedures growing by the day,” Forbes writes.

Hospital malpractice lawyers are often contacted by patients who have experienced sub-par care due to over-crowding in medical facilities. In Ontario, hospital discharge delays have been called “one of the most significant problems” in the province. An increased focus on senior-specific care could alleviate crowding issues in Canada’s hospitals and result in a higher standard of care for all segments of the population.

If you or a member of your family, young or old, has suffered an injury to an instance of medical negligence, contact the hospital malpractice lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Group today. They can help you better understand your legal situation and potentially access compensation for your injuries.

Greg Neinstein