Personal care bed shortage at risk if no action taken

A study released this month by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP), a U of M faculty of medicine research department, predicts that the province is set to undergo a rise in demand for personal care home (PCH) bed equivalents between 2012 and 2036.

The increasing need for long-term care is attributed to a growing senior population in Manitoba. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, PCH bed requirements are projected to increase accordingly.

From 2011 to 2021, only a slight increase in demand is predicted for Winnipeg. Other health regions of Manitoba, including the Interlake and Northern regions will feel a somewhat greater pressure.

A sharper rise in demand across the province is anticipated to occur between 2021 and 2031, when the first baby boomers are aging from 75 to 85.

The study asserts by 2036, between 5100 and 6300 additional bed equivalents (on top of the current 9700 PCH beds in Manitoba) will be needed. This translates to a 55 to 69 per cent increase in beds.

The research also shows that an individual’s marital situation, as well as whether or not she or he has children, impacts one’s likelihood of requiring long-term care. For example, a senior who is a married man has a 40 per cent decreased chance of requiring long-term care. A married woman has a 23 per cent decreased chance. An individual with two children has a 34 per cent decreased risk of requiring admission into a PCH.

The report, entitled “Projecting Personal Care Home Bed Equivalent Needs in Manitoba Through 2036,” makes two significant improvements on prior studies.

First, this month’s release, which succeeds a report published in 2011 (released by the MCHP and authored by Doupe et al.), provides analysis of PCH bed equivalent needs by region. Although the report is being released simultaneously to the reorganization of Manitoba’s 11 regional health authorities (RHAs) into five, it is able to show, according to a summary written by Michelle Houlden, “how Manitoba’s older population is likely to grow in each of the new RHAs as well as the former ones.”

Additionally, the new study considers PCH bed equivalents. This takes into account a finding from the 2011 report showing that some PCH care can be provided “by other means” – for example, in supported housing.

Dan Chateau, lead author/researcher on the study, explains that the findings do not necessarily mean that Manitoba is doomed to endure a shortage of bed equivalents.

“I don’t think we can make the assumption that what we are facing is a bed shortage. It is not a shortage unless nothing is done. I’d say it’s the coming need for care that this study deals with.”

An upcoming study at the MCHP, lead authored by Greg Finlayson, entitled “The Cost of Publicly Supported Housing for Seniors – Implications for Future Funding Approaches,” will investigate the cost-effectiveness of supportive housing compared to nursing home care. Data from this project will be “used to help plan future Aging in Place initiatives in Winnipeg and other health regions,” according to MCHP’s website.

Aging in Place refers to the Manitoba government’s long-term care strategy for seniors. The program focuses largely on finding alternatives to PCH placement for aging Manitobans when possible.

Chateau also commented on the impact a rise in need for PCH beds and PCH bed equivalents will have for current post-secondary students.

“There’s no two ways about it, it’s definitely going to increase the need for human resources to address the increased demand for care. There will be a linked demand for all those positions if more personal care homes are made. Even in the alternatives, if it’s more supportive housing, you’re going to need staff there as well.”

Students currently attending post-secondary institutions will also be affected, according to Chateau, when their parents and relatives begin to require long-term care.

“Post-secondary students’ parents will eventually begin to require long-term care at some point in this era. Many people begin to require PCH placement, or an alternative form of long-term care around the age of 75. So, although it isn’t necessarily immediate, it is worth considering and planning for.”

MCHP conducts research on the health of Manitobans using an anonymous database of health care service usage by residents of the province.