Our Health Care.
Our Stories.
Real stories from real people navigating seniors care in Canada
Not just for seniors, but for every Canadian

I have been fortunate throughout most of my life to receive excellent, competent, expert and compassionate medical, surgical and nursing care when it was needed. As a child, I had mysterious symptoms after being treated for chronic nephritis. I was eventually diagnosed with an “infected liver” and a “half-decayed kidney” and was successfully treated. At age 15, I had a hemi-nephrectomy as the kidney caused problems again. Later that year, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Loopholes in our medicare system.

I recently moved from Moncton, NB, to Montreal, Que. Before I left NB my doctor ran some tests and sent me the results in Montreal. My results showed abnormalities in my breast and lung, and I had to have the tests repeated. I went to the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex, saw a doctor, and had a series of tests done. Quebec does not accept out-of-province medicare, so I had to pay for all the tests and visits. These included blood tests, X-rays, mammograms and an MRI. The cost was $1,200.00. I called New Brunswick Medicare and they sent me reimbursement forms, which I filled out and submitted. Of the $1,200.00, only $217.00 was reimbursed. I called New Brunswick Medicare and was informed that Quebec submits a code book of costs to the other provinces. According to the Quebec code book, an MRI, for which I paid $350.00, only costs $15.00. Why was I charged $350.00 and what happened to the $335.00 I wasn’t reimbursed? I am a retired senior on a fixed income. I had to use a credit card to pay for basic medical care, and then did not get reimbursed! Apparently medicare is not nationwide in Canada! After one year in Montreal, I moved back to Moncton. Thank you for this forum to discuss loopholes in our medicare system.

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She never saw that home again

My mom was placed in a nursing home at the age of 84, after a hospital visit where she was treated for pneumonia. After an assessment, it was decided that she wasn’t able to live on her own any longer. We asked about home care, but the hospital staff said that she would need 24 hour care for safety reasons if she was at home, which was horribly expensive. We weren’t offered any other options for her care except a nursing home. My mom had lived in the same house for fifty years. After her hospital visit, she never saw that home again.

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We must all suffer together.

My wife, who is 72 years old, needed cataract surgery for one eye. The wait time in the Yukon is two years. In two years she could either be dead or blind in one eye and of course unable to drive, which is an important part of her life. We went to the U.S. and had it done this winter. A one-week wait and now she has perfect sight. The Yukon health system will not cover any part of the cost. We must all suffer together.

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I am still his caregiver

I am a senior and relatively healthy, which I am very thankful for. My spouse is not a senior yet and he has chronic fibromyalgia and he lives with lots of pain all the time. He was on disability but in April 2016 the government cut him off because of the amount of income in our household. Since I am a senior and living on a pension and government pensions (which do not amount to a lot in today’s economy) I am finding it very difficult to support the two of us on one income. I think the government should not distinguish between couples and other pairs of people such as sisters and brothers. They say if we were siblings he would receive the maximum amount for disability. Whether I am his sister or his wife, I am still his caregiver, just as much as a sibling would be. I think that seniors who are caregivers should be given extra income to cover the care of the person. Thank you.

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Thanks to friends

My husband has been waiting 18 months for a nursing home bed. In January this year I had to have respite care for him while I recovered from a cataract surgery. In our rural community of 25,000 there is only one designated bed available. Because of an outbreak, that bed was not available and he had to go a facility that is an hour and a half drive from our home. This meant an additional cost for the accessibility transport as well as the challenge of driving for visiting. Fortunately, we had a mild winter and we managed thanks to friends.

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More Flexibility

As a sufferer of COPD (severe emphysema), here are some of the obstacles I have found. Before I could receive an oxygen machine in my home I lived on oxygen canisters. The rules were quite strict on the tests to qualify for a machine; they never took into account a measurement on any everyday exertions (The tests need to be more flexible). So it took me awhile to get a machine. 

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Your cause is a worthy one.

Over thirty-five years ago, and shortly after my father died, my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She lived in the house she and my dad had built in Thorold, Ontario, where they had raised my brother and me. As her MS progressed, I realized that she could no longer live alone unassisted. Since she wouldn’t move in with my brother or me, I sold my house in Toronto and moved in with her. I worked for several years, but my mom’s condition continued to worsen and eventually I retired early so that I could better meet her needs. I intended to get a part-time job, but her condition has deteriorated so quickly that I haven’t been able to leave her to work. Even though I watch my money carefully and spend it only on basic living expenses and necessities, I’ve watched a good amount of my retirement savings  disappear over the last few years.     

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

I am a senior caring for an ill spouse. Fortunately I am blessed with good health but unfortunately my husband has many medical problems and needs help with pretty well all his basic needs. He is pretty well considered disabled but is able to walk about from the bedroom to the living room with aid of a walker. He is on oxygen full-time and his breathing becomes laboured with any exertion. He is at a high risk for falls. He is unable to bathe himself or use the bathroom on his own. I monitor all his medications, which are constantly changing. I manage all the finances and household tasks. I am the only driver and assist him in getting to his doctor appointments and anywhere else he has to go, with difficulty. I could go on and on.

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Help prevent further issues

My wife and I have bought basic health care from a private supplier and it cost us $254 per month and does not include any life insurance, just the basic health care coverage. It would certainly be advantageous to have coverage for therapies such as chiropractic, massage or physiology in order to help prevent further issues. At one time, OHIP covered some of these, but no longer.

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More needs to be done

My 95-year-old mother was placed in long-term care a little over a month ago. Prior to that, she lived with us for over 3 1/2 years, following dad's death in 2012. He was 96. They did begin receiving home care after mum had a stroke in her late 80's. They did not want to go to a nursing home because they would likely be separated, be miles apart, and lose what independence they did have.

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Woefully inadequate support

I have worked as a family physician for many years. I have seen many of my patients with chronic diseases being denied or given woefully inadequate support by their local Community Care Access Centre.  This situation has arisen because of inadequate funding for those with chronic diseases.  So instead of being able to be cared for in their homes 24/7, these people are sent to nursing homes or assisted living situations that often separate patients from their families. It also means they cannot receive the care they need and deserve due to inadequate funding to these programs. It is very sad that those who have contributed so much to their family and society end their days so poorly cared for

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A "gap" of seniors

I am a single female senior who has been physically disabled for several years and I am in my early 60's. I am living with my sole income of Canada Pension Plan contributions. I cannot apply for the guaranteed income supplement even though my income is far below the qualifying income threshold. If I was a widow I would get assistance through a survivor’s pension. I feel that there is definitely a "gap" of seniors like myself in Canada who struggle to survive well below the poverty level. I am a third generation Canadian who worked and raised two tax paying Canadian children. I have no way to supplement my income and the government could care less! I trust that this will draw much-needed attention to a segment of our aging population who worked hard to contribute to society and are "forgotten" as things stand today, leaving them without the means to meet their basic health care needs let alone their medical and dental needs.

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Dignity and Hope

I have seen first-hand the changes in health care, working as a personal support worker. The work load gets higher and higher. The time for each client is minimal as your list of demands grows daily. I remember one senior gentleman in a facility — he was a veteran. He just wanted to have a poached egg even once a week for breakfast, but it was denied. How sad that something that simple cannot be provided for someone who fought for our freedom. Our health care system is now about money, not a high quality of care that seniors deserve at the end of their lives. Care that involves dignity and hope! Canadians need to speak up and demand better for their senior loved ones — that is why I wrote this story!

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Caregiver burnout and lack of support

In my clinical experience, I meet families who face caregiver burnout and lack of support. The cost of private seniors residences is increasingly prohibitive for many vulnerable older adults. Additional community supports are difficult to access, and often costly when they are not covered. Information regarding the complex care and health history of older adults is commonly fragmented and difficult to gather in a system where electronic medical records vary from one site to another and do not communicate with each other. This puts patients and clinicians in a precarious place.

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Funding for front-line staff

My 97-year-old mom just passed away, and it would have been wonderful to have experienced more availability of staff to spend time with her. Having had experience in a long-term care home, I am so apprehensive for myself and my husband as we age and may have to live in a home. I believe we are headed for a crisis in long-term care unless more funding, directed to front line staffing, is available.

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More and more care

My mom will be 93 in November. I have been her primary care provider while she has been living in an independent retirement home for the last 7 years. During the last year or so she has needed more and more care, has had several emergency room visits and each time we’ve been pushed for her to apply for nursing home placement. It has been a real battle to get and keep minimal home care support through the local Community Care Access Centre. We are very fortunate for the many services our family health team provides, for both my aging mother — including home visits for foot care and dietitian — and for myself — including counseling. Family health teams are so very valuable and I am very grateful for the social worker counselor and support groups they organize and provide.

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The support she needs

My mom is 93 and we are struggling as a family to provide care in addition to the services she pays for in a private retirement home. Another hour or so a day with a personal support worker would enable us to continue our own jobs and give mum the support she needs.

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Early diagnosis and treatment

As a senior, I’ve found waitlists for procedures, including physio, are far too long. Difficulty with mobility often adds to more health problems due to lack of physical activity, creating even less mobility due to constant pain, which in turn creates more health issues — and the downward spiral continues. Early diagnosis and treatment may keep seniors out of care facilities for longer.

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My "good" days

I’m 77 years old. I have various health problems. Currently, my only child, a grown son, does a wonderful job caring for me in order for me to stay in my home. I try to do as much as I can on my "good" days, but I feel the amount he does for me may need to increase in the future. I don't want to put it all on his shoulders. I’m hoping in the future that just because an elderly person has a family member helping, that we should also be able to have some help for them as well. Formal caregivers get paid, why shouldn't family caregivers get the same amount per hour?

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The not-too-distant-future

As a senior, while well at this time, I can expect to use health care services in the not-too-distant-future and want to see that care can be provided in the right place at the right time. My husband died from Parkinson’s disease last year. We had private caregivers to keep him at home for five years (at a tremendous cost) but the hours offered by the access centre were inadequate and would have been detrimental to my health. I slipped a thoracic disc trying to move him once. The tax credits for these expenses are totally inadequate and should be revisited. When he eventually went into long-term care on an emergency basis, we were fortunate to be given a very good placement. I visited five possible homes, only two of which were modernised — the others should have been pulled down years ago.

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Security of knowing

I would like the security of knowing that my children and grandchildren will not have to cope with my aging and illness in the same ways that I had to cope with my parents’ aging, illness and death. If medical science continues to advocate for length of life over quality of life, they should also be prepared to advocate for improved services for those who are living longer.

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From coast to coast

In the last two years I have had two bouts of cancer, beginning at age 64. I didn't qualify for the seniors health benefit at first because of my age but my chemo doctor registered me in a provincial program with pain medication and home care. I'm grateful. If governments work together at all levels to meet the demands of our aging population, that will allow us to age worry free. Costs and care should be the same from coast to coast to coast.

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New federal support for seniors care

New federal support for seniors care would mean so much. My ex-husband truly needs to move to an assisted living home. He would experience a better quality of life in that atmosphere, and right now, we’ve done everything we as a family can do. Additionally, I live on a limited fixed income and to pay rent, medications and utilities takes up more than what I receive. Something has to give so I cut back on food or my medication. I feel so down about that.

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Knowledge and Resources

I was a caregiver to my father and mother. My mother lived in my home for over three years. We wanted our privacy but at times I struggled without the knowledge and resources in place to assist me. One issue was the physical stress on my mom and me in taking her to doctor appointments every three months. It was extremely difficult for her at 100 years of age.

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Good quality of life

New federal support for seniors care would mean that I could age in place and have good quality of life for as long as possible. It would mean that my care would be cheaper and I would not be a burden to my loved ones and society.

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Support for seniors care in the Health Accord is crucial

As the founder and one of the leaders of the Prince Albert Seniors’ Advocacy Centre, I believe that new federal support for seniors care in the Health Accord is crucial not only to the wellbeing of our seniors but to the wellbeing of the country. A country that does not take care of its very young and elderly will not take care of the rest.

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It would be nice to feel that we’re not alone

It would be nice to feel that we’re not alone and to have some programs in place to turn to when the need arises. My husband and I are seniors. He is a cancer patient and I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. I take care of him and the house. We have grown children who help out as well. But, as an example, my husband is, hopefully going to participate in a drug trial for his cancer and we’ll have to go to Montreal at least every two weeks for treatment and follow up. He no longer drives, and I cannot cope with the traffic in a big city that I don't know. It would be really nice to have an agency we could turn to for some kind of travel assistance so we don't have to rely on our children who will have to take time off from work to help.

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Innovative Ways

As part of the baby boomers and currently dealing with the system and my own aging parents, it’s very important that the necessary systems and facilities are in place. Innovative ways to allow us to stay in our homes longer are a high priority for me.

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An opportunity for seniors to make their own decisions

A new health accord would provide an opportunity for seniors to make a decision as to whether or not she/he wished to be provided various types of care in the environment of his/her choice. It would also ensure that seniors are able to get the prescriptions filled, and not have to make a choice between medication and basic care such as heating their home, buying groceries, etc.

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Supporting community initiatives

A new Health Accord would mean supporting community initiatives in which seniors are the leaders in their own wellness and the wellness of their communities.  

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Funding for my father

It would mean that my elderly parents would have access to more options so they can continue to stay at home. My father is a WW2 vet and he, and my Mom, need help to stay in their home. They are fortunate that the Veterans Association and their neighbours are helping so much that they can stay in their home and enjoy a good quality of life. However, they are in the minority.

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Simply being warehoused

New federal support for seniors care would mean better care for my wife, Kathleen, who suffered a debilitating stroke over four years ago and is now in complex care where the services and programs are woefully inadequate. She is, as a result, simply being warehoused!

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Quite a chunk of money for a person on a fixed income

As a senior, I recently moved to British Columbia from Alberta. When I retired in Alberta, my health care was at no cost to me, along with a basic Blue Cross program that could be topped up if I wanted. Now, in British Columbia, it costs me over $90 for my wife and me each month.  That’s over $1,080 a year. For me, that’s quite a chunk of money for a person on a fixed income. As well, we’ve been without a dental plan for the past five years and haven’t seen a dentist as it’s too expensive. All medical and dental coverage should be the same across this country.

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This health accord provides an opportunity to shift previous thoughts around health care

Federal support for seniors care would hopefully promote awareness, innovation and meaningful program development (whether at the federal, provincial/territorial or municipal level) to provide better, more timely and appropriate care to Canadian seniors and their family caregivers. 

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I recently lost my mother

New federal support for seniors care would absolutely give me peace of mind. I recently lost my 81 year old mother who remained in her own home with home care but it was very hard — there were too many inconsistencies across the board when it came to her care. Family came last and it felt very scary having to leave her.

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Caring for my husband with dementia

My husband is 92 and diagnosed with vascular dementia. I have not had any respite for one and a half years. As a result, I find I'm suffering health issues due to stress and in dire need of support — but we don’t qualify for home care.

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It has already cost my health dearly

As a senior taking care of a husband with dementia, I’m acutely aware of the need for support services. For me, it would mean the difference between survival and maintaining my health.

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