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Isobel Mackenzie, B.C. seniors advocate, speaks in Vancouver, B.C., on March 19, 2014.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

High rents and reduced home-support services for British Columbia's seniors are forcing many people out of their homes before they need to leave, says the province's seniors advocate.

Inadequate government home-care programs and rising rents are seeing more seniors ending up out of their homes and into publicly funded residential-care facilities, Isobel Mackenzie said Tuesday in releasing her 2016 report on services for seniors.

Ms. Mackenzie estimated 10 per cent of the 27,000 seniors in care homes could be living in their own homes if the government provided improved home supports.

She said housing subsidies for elderly renters have increased 9 per cent over the past 11 years, but rents have gone up 34 per cent. Most B.C. seniors live on an average annual income of $26,000.

"Some things B.C. does well, and there's some things where we're going, 'whoops,' we're not looking so good, compared to the rest of the country," Ms. Mackenzie told a news conference.

"Anti-psychotic drug use is one, the other is the number of people in our residential-care facilities who actually could be supported at home."

Ms. Mackenzie reported three years ago that the use of anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressants at B.C. care homes was at 32 per cent, while their use was pegged at 18 per cent in Alberta and 23 per cent in Ontario.

New Democrat Judy Darcy, the Opposition's health critic, said the government has failed to provide adequate home supports for seniors.

"They are getting inadequate home support that ends up meaning they go to emergency rooms, they get admitted to hospitals or they are admitted to residential care too early," she said.

Ms. Mackenzie's report found home-care support was down by 2 per cent from last year, but the number of clients was up by 2 per cent.

The report says wait times for residential care grew longer in three of five regional health authorities.

The Health Ministry said in a statement the government's goal is to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible.

It highlighted support services that include community nursing, community rehabilitation, adult day programs and home support.

Some of the other key findings from the report:

  • Ninety-two per cent of seniors report having a regular physician;
  • At the end of 2014-15, about 52,000 people were living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, leaving four out of five seniors aged 85 and over with no diagnosis of dementia;
  • The number of subsidized housing units for seniors stayed relatively flat, while the number of people 55 and older waiting for a unit increased by 11 per cent;
  • Between 2012 and 2014, there was a 10-per-cent increase in seniors with active driver’s licences, with the greatest increase recorded in the 85 and older age group at 13 per cent;
  • There were 900 drivers aged 80 and over who voluntarily surrendered their licences in 2015;
  • The Public Guardian and Trustee, who responds to allegations and investigates cases of financial abuse, neglect and self-neglect says referrals increased slightly over the past year by 7 per cent;
  • The province’s 211 helpline received 243 calls, of which 70 per cent were related to abuse.