Blog | September 09, 2013

By Bill Mah, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON—Dozens of seniors marked Grandparents’ Day on Sunday at the Alberta legislature grounds protesting provincial cuts to programs for the elderly.A crowd of about one hundred people, including seniors and their families, attended the rally organized by advocacy group Public Interest Alberta.Some participants said they were fearful of changes the provincial government has proposed or put into practice affecting the aged such as a major overhaul of the way it provides drug coverage and consolidation of the home-care system.Betty Mackey, 71, said she came to the rally because she is worried about the impact of the government’s plan to save about $180 million annually starting in 2015-16 by replacing the universal seniors’ drug plan with one where higher-earning seniors pay more than the current $25 maximum.“I have a sister who’s very medically compromised and her pharmaceuticals are around $500 a month,” Mackey said.“They live in a small town in rural Alberta on their pension and without the seniors’ plan, they would not be able to afford her medications and so it scares me to hear about them changing it or having means tests to qualify people.”Norm Gressel, 74, said he was concerned about the uncertainty around the drug plan.“We’re in the dark,” he said.“We don’t know what (Health Minister Fred Horne) is going to do.”Although he lives independently, he said also worries about the cost and availability of long-term care spaces.“I can’t afford private care so we need public care.”Alberta Health Services announced in June it was dramatically reducing the number of home care agencies it uses in Calgary and Edmonton from 72 to 13. The move is designed to save money and standardize care. Opponents say the consolidation is pushing out many not-for-profit and community-run agencies in favour of large, for-profit corporations that pay less.Carol Anne Kunicki said her 86-year-old mother Stefania has lost a beloved long-term care aide she had for five years.“On July 3rd, Mom was so devastated by the loss of her long-term care aide that my stoic, strong mom cried herself to sleep,” Kunicki said.“Why, in her precious twilight years, is my mom or anyone’s mom faced with this imposed, unnecessary lunacy?Noel Somerville, chairman of Public Interest Alberta’s seniors task force, said the provincial government is cutting seniors programs instead of raising taxes, “because it refuses to recognize it has a revenue problem, not a spending problem.”He said many groups are affected by the cuts, but seniors are among the most vulnerable.“They’re affecting people who are cognitively impaired, chronically ill or so profoundly frail that they can’t look after themselves anymore.”No government MLAs or health officials spoke at the rally.bmah@edmontonjournal.comtwitter.com/mahspaceRead the article online at The Edmonton Journal.