MLAs question cabinet ministers on care and support of seniors
“Our support and helpfulness to our elders must not only be words"
Nunavut MLAs asked a lot of questions in the legislative assembly March 17 and March 18 about what they called inadequate care and financial support for seniors.
It all started with Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, who said there’s a need for an elders’ strategy in Nunavut.
“Our support and helpfulness to our elders must not only be words,” Angnakak said in a members’ statement.
“It behooves us to actually make our elders’ lives easier through relevant and supportive programs and services delivery,” she said.
That means the government needs to ensure services facilities are ready for elders in need, she said, and help those who can’t help themselves.
“Many families are struggling to look after their aging parents because they want them close to home and often there is little help offered by this government,” Angnakak said.
Angnakak asked health minister Monica Ell if there is any plan for a “comprehensive elders health strategy.”
Ell said she “could not report at this time.”
So Angnakak came back a day later, March 19, and asked the same question.
Ell then said a strategy would have to include coordination with the departments of Family Services, Nunavut Housing Corp. and Culture and Heritage.
She said cooperation will “eventually” lead to a “coordinated approach, a strategy, if you might want to call it that.”
Angnakak also asked if the Government of Nunavut has plans to address a demographic shift that will see the number of elders rising in the future.
She said by 2036, 10 per cent of Nunavut’s population will be 65 or older.
Ell said the health department is planning to conduct an assessment to deal with long-term care needs for Nunavummiut.
That would include in-home support, and models for supportive living and residential programs, Ell said.
South Baffin MLA David Joanasie on March 18 questioned Jeannie Ugyuk, the family services minister, on a gap he sees in financial support for elders.
Joanasie said Nunavut’s social assistance program is available for 18 to 59 year old claimants.
But elders can’t receive Old Age Security — a supplement to the Canada Pension Plan — until they turn 65, leaving a gap for those aged 60 to 64.
Joanasie said the Nunavut Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit program is available for all those 60 and over, but you need to receive the federal government’s Guaranteed Income Supplement or Spouse’s Allowance to qualify.
Ugyuk said anyone can go to her department and fill out a form for support.
“You can go see a social worker or income support worker if you need support so that you will get detailed information on how you can be supported,” Ugyuk said.
“If the senior can’t be supported, then they can be given an explanation why they are not eligible for senior support,” she said.
Joanasie also suggested that Nunavut’s senior citizen benefit program — $175 a month — should be increased “to keep pace with the rising cost of Nunavut.”
Ugyuk said that program is currently under review and is expected to be completed by 2015.
Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq also threw Ugyuk a question about the possibility of expanding the Andy Aulatjut Elders Centre in Arviat.
“With the steady increase in the number of people who need care, the facility desperately needs to be expanded,” Savikataaq said.
Ugyuk suggested Savikataaq send information about this issue to her department.
But “our department doesn’t do the actual work, so I can’t state that our department will resolve this issue.”
Ugyuk said her department can only resolve the issue with the help of the Department of Community and Governmental Services.