I like being in School

Those who are regular followers of this column will recall that I was bemoaning the fact that I miss what, up until two years ago, was a relatively high number of invitations to visit schools and classrooms. You might say that I have sort of a strong anti-hooky drive in me. I like being in school. I have been told that maybe it’s because around them, I can act the age I feel mentally, rather than the age my physical body tells me that I really am.

In my view, a successful classroom visit is one where I hopefully inspire more in-depth questions and issues for the teacher to discuss with the class in the coming days and where I come out learning more about how our children and youth see the world.

Last week’s column encouraged readers to reach out to their children or youth to discover what is on their minds. Of course, one of the uppermost concerns for youth is protecting the environment and finding ways to reverse climate change trends. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that children and youth don’t understand what climate change is, what the effects are and what we need to do to begin to reverse the trends. They know that it is not the norm for entire Canadian communities to be burned to the ground, as happened in Fort Mcmurray Alberta and Lytton, British Columbia. Kids today know a heck of a lot more about the world than we did at their ages.

This week I want to share some thoughts on a second concern that our children have at the forefront of their minds; the happiness and welfare of family members. And it seems to me that of particular concern to our children and youth are senior members of their families, such as grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles.

Kids hear the whispers of Mom and Dad talking about what to do about grandma or grandpa when it seems they just can’t make it on their own anymore or are ailing, needing extra care. The kids can put two and two together. They notice how it stresses their grandparents out and that the fallout sometimes percolates down to affect the entire family.

It is by no means just some cliché to say that Ontario seniors helped make this province what it is today. They really did. They worked hard to put food on the table and pay the rent or mortgage. They volunteered their time and contributed to the community causes, facilities and programs that we enjoy today. And they proudly raised their families and provided a solid education and other needs to ensure future generations had the same or better opportunities than they had in their youth. What we have today really did come from the sweat of our seniors’ brows. So now they should be able to enjoy what they helped to build.

Unfortunately, the happiness and security for some seniors have seemingly passed them by.

Most people prefer to live in the comfort of their own home where they are close to family, friends and familiar surroundings for as long as they can. But at some point, this preference has to come to an end if they can’t be as independent as they once were. Those individuals find themselves having to move into a long-term care facility.

However, the problem is that our current home care system is unreliable. Privatization and government underfunding have left Ontario with a patchwork system where home care services are delivered by chronically understaffed companies whose primary focus is on profits, not quality care. Further it seems that service delivery is unequally distributed across Ontario, with Northern and rural areas often receiving the least reliable care. In 2015, the Auditor General of Ontario pointed out this inconsistency in services across Ontario. And worse yet, not much has changed since.

Last year, almost 18,000 people living in long-term care homes could have continued to live at home and in their communities if the proper supports were available and appropriately funded. This is truly a sad fact.

In addition to hurting seniors, Ontario’s current model comes with a hefty price tag for Ontarians. Less-available home care means more seniors are staying in hospital beds unnecessarily. Over 5000 people each day in Ontario are taking up hospital beds, paying hospital rates even though they don’t need that level of care. Data shows that this needless wait is costing Ontario taxpayers billions of dollars!

Conservative and Liberal governments built a system where big, private corporations relegate seniors in institution-like facilities. They cut corners when it comes to staffing and care in order to pocket bigger profits. And it was our own elected officials who helped them do it!. The Conservatives and the Liberals before them cut inspections. They cut funding. They froze budgets. And they blocked public inquiries. So who is it exactly that the governments have been looking out for up to now?

Prior to the pandemic, we had all heard heartbreaking stories of seniors dehydrated, injured without explanation, left to develop bedsores, and not being given the time or the help to eat, dress themselves, bathe or even get to the bathroom. A revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers, like personal support workers (PSWs) were run off their feet, while one-size-fits-all care often erased people’s culture, foods, and language.

When the COVID-19 pandemic got into these homes, Doug Ford tried to save money by doing the bare minimum. Tragically, more than 1,870 people lost their lives in the first wave of COVID-19. People’s parents and grandparents were left fearful, confused and afraid to get sick and die alone, sometimes in horrible conditions.

We just cannot let things stand the way they are now. We need a plan for better aging. And the good news is, I believe the NDP has such a plan called Aging Ontarians Deserve the Best, which can be found on our party website ondp.ca. We know why and how the system is broken and have a plan how fix senior care. We are committed to;

  • Clearing waiting lists
  • helping seniors live in their own homes longer
  • building small, modern family-like homes, right in the neighbourhoods where seniors now live
  • Staff up with full-time, well-paid, well-trained caregivers
  • Make all long-term care public and not-for-profit

Ask your child or teen if grandma and grandpa deserve the best. Ask them if they have paid their dues. There is always hope for a better future; better for our seniors; better for us when we get to that point in life; and better for our children so they won’t have to deal with the same fears, guilt and anxieties when it’s our turn to enjoy the benefits of our work when we become our parents. After all, will we not also deserve the best?

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha
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