08/19/2013 10:53 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT

CMA poll finds golden years filled with 'anxiety'

Home and community care should be a priority in seniors' health care, given the "real" and "well-founded" anxiety Canadians have facing their golden years, a poll for the Canadian Medical Association suggests.

Ipsos Reid conducted the annual poll as part of the medical group's national report card on health issues, with a focus on the retirement years. The medical association's annual convention is underway in Calgary and runs through Wednesday.

For the poll, when presented with three priorities in seniors' health care, a majority selected home and community care (63 per cent), above care provided in hospitals and long-term care facilities (24 per cent) and end-of-life care (12 per cent).

"The anxiety Canadians have about health care in their so-called golden years is both real and well-founded," CMA President Dr. Anna Reid said in a release. "Let there be no doubt that a national strategy for seniors health care should be a federal priority."

There were some differences, with residents of Quebec (66 per cent) and the Atlantic provinces (71 per cent) likely to prioritize home and community care compared with residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (50 per cent.)

Those with no physical/mental disability were also more likely (64 per cent) to make home and community care a priority, compared with those who do have those challenges (54 per cent).

Reid said research shows it costs $126 a day to provide care for a patient in long-term care versus $842 a day in a hospital. But making it easier for seniors to stay at home while getting the care they need would be the preferred and most "cost-effective option," she said.

Ninety-three per cent agreed that "Canadian needs a national strategy on health care for seniors which addresses the need for care provided at home, care provided in hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities and care provided at the end of life"

The poll, conducted July 17-26 by phone with 1,000 Canadians, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

Monday's session at the CMA convention will explore end-of-life issues such as palliative care, advance care planning or what used to be known as a living will, and physician-assisted dying.