Seniors care in the community: looking back, planning ahead
When Cathy Makihara looks over the busy lobby at Nikkei Home she sees what is on the surface—seniors waiting to be picked up by relatives for an outing, caregivers bustling about, members of the public lining up for lunch at Hi Genki, a family waiting at the reception desk to discuss their father’s suitability for residence at the Home—but she also sees the many years of planning and fundraising and community consultations that went into building both Nikkei Home and its sister facility, New Sakura-so, across the street.
This coming September, Nikkei Home will celebrate its tenth anniversary—a time to acknowledge an important milestone, but also to look ahead at needs within the community that are not yet being met. With that in mind, this month the Nikkei Seniors Health Care & Housing Society is issuing an extensive survey to be filled out by Nikkei seniors.
As Executive Director of the NSHCHS, Cathy sees the survey as a way of collecting important data that will help determine where the society put its energies going forward. By gathering as many samples as possible, she hopes that they can gather enough data to help pinpoint needs and priorities within the community so that they can better serve a growing seniors population. The survey will be sent out to seniors this month and is also published in this month’s Bulletin (see page 25).
The Bulletin sat down with Cathy at Nikkei Home on the eve of the release of the survey.
You have been involved with the health care society for a long time now. What started you working with seniors, and what keeps you here?
When I first met Nikkei seniors in 1988 during the Redress implementation, through that experience, I learned that as a community we had a responsibility to look after seniors, especially those without families. They had endured much and had not asked for much, and would not ask for much as they got older. Finding a way to look after social, health and housing needs is something that we each do day-to-day for our personal needs as well as our families, but it is up to a community to pitch in especially for seniors. It is from that experience that I joined with so many others in working for seniors.
What has been your biggest satisfaction? Your biggest frustration?
My greatest satisfaction to date is that our society is finding a way to help seniors. The housing programs of New Sakura-so and Nikkei Home are doing that work, but I am aware that there is a need for more. We need programs that reflect what the seniors need to live in their homes as long as practical. We have a shortage of housing for seniors with dementias and residential care with a Nikkei focus, and are working on this by speaking with governmental authorities on ways to build this into our operations. If we had this, we could provide the food, culture and language that seniors express as one of their desires in choosing a place to live.
Any frustration I feel is my own, in that I wish we had more programs in place to help seniors, I wish we had all the resources in place to develop the programs, and that seniors were not so frustrated in navigating the public system when they need help.
This is the tenth anniversary of Nikkei Home, and New Sakura-so is even older. How many seniors have lived at the two residences over those years?
Between Nikkei Home and New Sakura-so, we have provided housing for about 250 seniors (Nikkei and non-Nikkei). For me, the most interesting of all statistics is that on average at Nikkei Home, seniors live here for five years, and at New Sakura-so for nine years plus.
We always hear about the aging of the general population. I imagine this is true for the Nikkei population as well. Do you see a big increase in health care-related services over the short and long term?
At this time, our Society does see an increasing need for services. There will be a need for services that help seniors for short durations such as right after hospitalizations or illness, and longer durations for help in, around and outside the home in order to remain independent. There will be a greater demand for different kinds of housing and the type of help seniors will want. If it is our goal as a community to ensure that seniors have quality, enjoyment and good health during their life, there is much room for all community-based organizations to pitch in.
What is the impetus behind the survey appearing in this month’s Bulletin?
The impetus for the survey is so that our Society can develop future programs and services based on evidence gathered from seniors. Although basic needs have not changed, what has changed is that seniors have specific wishes on what services they need and want, how they want it delivered, by whom and at what level of expertise in providing care and support. Today’s seniors have a voice and they need to be heard so that long-term planning in the community will be successful.
How will it help moving forward?
There will be nearly, 2,000 surveys going out in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. We ask that every senior fill out the survey so that as a community we can plan for the types of services needed now and into the future.
We say it often, but really can’t say it enough: thank you very much to everyone who has helped the Society so far in its work. It is because of you that we have achieved what we have. Your continued support will allow up to continue supporting seniors. I also encourage as many seniors as possible fill out our survey so that we have the ability to plan ahead.