If you’re not talking about it, reading about it or hearing about it, maybe you’re missing the boat – it looks like the home and community care issue has finally hit ground. The Ontario government, the citizens, companies, as well as caregivers have been fighting the good fight to have home and community care recognized as an equal partner in the health-care sector. The time has come; all the hard work and determination has paid off.
Last week, Ontario Minister of Health & Long-Term Care, Deb Matthews, addressed the attendees at the 5th annual Ontario Home Care Association Symposium. Matthew’s message was, “home care’s time has come.” These are long-awaited words by many of us in the home care world – professionals, care providers and family caregivers alike.
As I look back on my last two years as a Community Health Advisor, I have to agree that home care has definitely moved to the front of the line. We’ve heard much talk about the baby boomer tsunami, we’ve seen the flurry of retirement residence construction, we know the impact our aging population will have on the health-care system, and we read enough studies, surveys and reports. Now it’s time for the solutions, programs and services.
Back in 2009, Bayshore Home Health conducted the Living for Today – Ready for Tomorrow survey in conjunction with Ipsos Reid. The study involved interviews with older Canadians, aged 65-85, and their baby boomer children, and concluded that there’s a strong desire for independence among older Canadians. More than eight out of 10 would do everything they could to avoid moving to an extended care facility or nursing home, while 97 per cent said they’re trying to be pro-active about their health in order to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible.
Most recently, the Conference Board of Canada released the report, Home and Community Care in Canada: An Economic Footprint. It sheds light on the potential spending implications of shifting some care from institutions to homes. It also reflects on the fact that home and community care costs in 2010 ranged from $8.9 billion to $10.5 billion, accounting for only 4.6 to 5.5 per cent of total health spending in Canada. We need a shift in funding towards home care.
According to the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), Canada’s current home care landscape is a patchwork of policies and funding. Over 40 per cent of CARP members say they would not know where to get home care if they needed it. This does not reflect well on health care practitioners; it means we haven’t done our jobs well in providing information about the obvious next steps to the patients we care for.
I look back on the days when I nursed on a medical floor. Our aging journey was laid out pretty clearly: we aged, we fell ill with disease, we ended up in the hospital and were eventually transferred to a nursing home that, in some cases, was attached to the hospital. Care in the home was very rare. However, 25 years later, patients are transitioning out of hospital and into their homes at a fast rate. The system needs to catch up.
We’ve come a long way with home care programs; we can certainly bring hospital to home, but home care needs to be tailored to the individual’s needs as customized care or a service that will keep our loved ones healthy, safe and independent in their homes. This is unconventional home care and can include, for instance, a companion making a weekly visit for a cup of tea, game of cards, homemaking or meal preparation – things that may not be managed safely anymore by the individual. The companion might also escort the senior to their doctor’s appointment and return them home safely with accurate health information and a newly filled prescription.
Home care is a cost-effective way of managing someone’s health or condition with the same care and compassion they would receive at any point in the system. Home care isn’t a new concept, it just needs a facelift and a logical approach.
Click this link for the full report: Home and Community Care in Canada: An Economic Footprint