The cost of care homes in Bermuda can range from $2,000 to $10,000 a month. *iStock photo
The cost of care homes in Bermuda can range from $2,000 to $10,000 a month. *iStock photo

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19: An ageing population and the spiralling cost of rest homes could lead to abuse of elders, campaigners warned on Tuesday.

Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said that a combination of more old people and high fees could mean more older people failing to get the care they need.

Ms Fleming was speaking as the 2010 census figures revealed a greying population — but fewer care homes in business compared to 2000, which she blamed on homes closing due to the huge cost of care.

She added: “It’s a crisis — and it’s very well-known to anyone who has a parent who needs residential care.”

“To have someone in a care facility is becoming out of reach for the average person. The Government runs some residential care facilities, but there are long waiting lists.

“The rest are all private — we did a survey a few years ago and that gave us an idea of the financial picture of care homes. Every single one of those homes was in the red.

“It’s very expensive to run a home — most of the costs are in personnel and the sicker residents become, the more they need professional care like nurses.

“Those numbers were becoming unsustainable for these homes which don’t, by and large, get any Government money as institutions, although they may get some Government assistance for individual patients.

“We’re already seeing rises in the number of cases of parental abuse and the nice new hospital will have wards full of older people because we don’t have the infrastructure to care for the long-term needs of the elderly.”

The 2010 census showed that the percentage of the population aged 65 or over had increased from 11 to 14 per cent over the decade.

The group aged 45-64 also increased, from 24 per cent of the population to 30 per cent between 2000 and 2010.

But all other age groups showed a drop or – in the case of those aged from birth to four years old – remained static at six per cent.

A report on the census said: “According to the latest population projections, the proportion of seniors is expected to reach 22 per cent by 2030, while the proportion of children is expected to continue falling.

“If these demographic shifts continue, they will have a major impact on the size of the labour force, on pension and health insurance plans and, in general, on Bermuda’s economy and society.”

Insiders told the Bermuda Sun that rates for care homes in Bermuda can range from $2-3,000 a month for independent seniors, up to $6,000 a month for intermediate care and up to $10,000 a month for those needing constant care.

Another said: “Staff do not come cheap in Bermuda and – rightly – there are Government standards which have to be met. Against that background, it’s not suprising that nursing homes have been struggling.”

Ms Fleming said health insurance did not cover private long-term care, while people who own homes are no longer eligible for Government financial assistance programmes.

She added that Government was pushing for more family responsibility for care at home.

Ms Fleming said: “Seniors want to age at home, so in one respect, that’s good, but the challenge is the financing is missing. We don’t have a proper social services system in place that can attend to people’s needs at home.

“We have a declining birthrate as well, which makes the crisis even more serious because there are fewer children around to provide this type of care.

“Older people don’t have choices and we leave them vulnerable because other people make decisions and they sometimes don’t make the right financial decisions, especially on property issues.

“In the longer term, we must focus on prevention so people are healthier longer and we’re starting to see some of that. In the short term, there are no easy answers.

“We also need to allow people to work longer, for their economic, mental and general health and push the social benefit entitlement age up.

“As individuals, we also have to take personal responsibility. If we’re not taking care of ourselves physically and financially, we’re going to leave ourselves to the mercies of the powers-that-be.”