Doctors cry out from the heart

(Quebec) Forty doctors, geriatricians, researchers and specialists in the elderly are demanding that Quebec immediately engage in “a national conversation” on the aging of the population, a well-known issue that the health crisis has exacerbated. The pandemic must be used as a pretext to initiate change, they believe.

In a letter signed by, among others, Dr. Réjean Hébert, geriatrician and former Minister of Health, and Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, president of the College of Physicians, the group of experts made the following observation: “we have not, collectively, do the things we should have done ”in the face of an aging population.

The signatories, including several community stakeholders, underline the recent findings of the study by the Quebec Observatory on Inequalities, which indicate that the number of Quebecers aged 65 and over will drop from 1.7 million to 2.6. million in 2050. This is an increase of 53%.

Seniors will therefore represent 27% of the population of Quebec, a greater proportion than in the United States and elsewhere in the country. The report released Thursday also documents the inequalities between older age groups and the rest of the population.

According to the signatories of the letter, in Quebec, “we are only reacting” while the “daily management” of aging “seems to become a crisis in itself”.

The solutions found in these conditions are generally not suitable for everyone and only serve to temporarily stop an emergency.

The signatories of the letter

And this health crisis is the best example, said in an interview with La Presse D r Quoc Dinh Nguyen, who also signed the letter.

“We are talking about the pandemic and CHSLDs, it is essential at the moment, but the elderly, it is more than the CHSLD”, argues the geriatrician, who led in the spring the team of experts appointed to help the Legault government to manage the first wave in CHSLDs, particularly affected by the crisis.

“The pandemic has lifted the lid of the pot, but what we discovered was there before and it will be even after,” says Dr. Nguyen.

“It opens the door, but it will take people to come in and develop. It will never be enough in itself. People with more experience than me will tell you: you have to take advantage [of the crisis], but to think that it will be enough would be a mistake. Hence the importance of continuing to work, ”he summarizes.

The group considers that it is “urgent” in the current context to start “a national conversation” on the aging of the population. And this approach “should not be dependent on electoral deadlines”, we warn.

In their letter, the experts point out in particular “the government programs [which] are aimed for the most part at a generic population, with the result that they are not adapted to the needs of diverse seniors”.

But they argue that it would be “unfair to blame” only the current governments. Their cry from the heart thus challenges society as a whole. We must start looking for “solutions to such fundamental questions” as housing, the living environment, discrimination and isolation, they enumerate.

In order to progress towards lasting solutions, we must accept to question ourselves and, above all, take the time to do so.

The signatories of the letter

It starts by taking a broader look at the issue of aging and stopping “working in silos”, believes Dr. Nguyen. “Taking care of the elderly is not just taking care of the sickest. That’s 10, 20 years in the life of a large proportion of the population, ”he points out.

“We must bring together all the players, and that energy be deployed to meet the needs of seniors. I think seniors will get much better if we take advantage of COVID-19 to sit down together and make a diagnosis, ”he argues.

They say they hope that their call will be heard and that it will lead to the conclusion of “a social pact” with respect for those “who built Quebec”.

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