The Health Council of Canada recently released a report titled Canada’s Most Vulnerable: Improving Health Care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Seniors.
The report highlights the pertinent need to examine and better address the health care needs of Aboriginal seniors.
Aboriginal peoples are one of the most vulnerable citizen groups in Canada, and Aboriginal seniors are especially vulnerable due to poverty, inadequate housing, racism, language barriers, cultural differences, and trauma from the residential school experience. These factors may lead to increasing social isolation, and can exacerbate or trigger negative health consequences like dementia, depression, and elevated blood pressure.
While the report mainly targets government health care service providers, it is also important to non-profit community service providers. Indeed, many of the innovative practices the report canvasses are from local and community-based non-profits. For example, one organization called KO Telemedicine, which is Ontario-based and First Nations-operated, uses telemedicine to virtually link health care providers to otherwise inaccessible patients. This innovative practice has drastically reduced the isolation of elders in the area.
Community service providers that do not have the luxury of having Aboriginal-run programs can still serve the needs of Aboriginal seniors. The report outlines that a key principle is being able to provide culturally safe care. This means learning about Aboriginal history and gaining an understanding of the everyday realities Aboriginal peoples today.
Knowledge and understanding is needed to critically reflect and scrutinize the often-incorrect assumptions about Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginal seniors. The onus is on community service providers to reach out to isolated Aboriginal seniors in a culturally sensitive way.
The full report can be found at: http://www.healthcouncilcanada.ca/rpt_det.php?id=801
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