The NWT’s 2019 census states there are 6,313 people aged 60 or older in the territory, a number that is steadily on the rise and is estimated to nearly double over the next 15 years.
Suzette Montreuil, executive director of the NWT Seniors’ Society, says most seniors want to stay in their own homes, and that as the population ages long-term care, supportive, and assisted living needs will rise in the territory.
“The issue of the NWT is we have some homecare services, and we have long-term care, but we don’t have a lot of assisted living,” she said. “It’s mostly offered for … younger adults with disabilities, but there is a need for it in the senior population.
“Sometimes seniors reach the point where they require more assistance, but not necessarily medical care,” she explained, calling on the territorial government to make assisted living and long-term care for seniors a priority.
Assisted care typically includes things like help with meals, laundry, and housekeeping.
In February, a two-year pilot project launched to provide help for Elders and people with disabilities in seven communities.
That help, for tasks such as cleaning, running errands, and other needs, is provided by caregivers and paid for by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) which works in cooperation with local community organizations to deliver the program.
Applicants, once they are approved and their service plan is assessed by a nurse, receive up to four hours per week of services and care. Caregivers are selected by people in the program and can be family members, friends, or community members.
Currently the caregiver program has five participants in Ndilǫ and Dettah, eight in Yellowknife, and six in Behchokǫ̀.
“We are working to get the program set up in Tuktoyaktuk … [and] are also working to implement the pilot program in Hay River and Fort Resolution, but have not yet been successful in finding a community organization to partner with,” said Lisa Giovanetto, spokesperson for NTHSSA.
Giovanetto said the department will be using feedback over the two-year term to assess the program for future changes.
She said work is being done to expand hours of home care services and that the department is working to meet recommendations set out in the Home and Community Care Review Report released this June.