The Quiet Unsung Heroes of Healthcare
COVID-19 is taking a massive toll on society. Canadians want to go to work, school, and to go out for a walk. Yet the population most impacted by COVID-19, our senior citizens, has only ever wanted to stay in their homes. Instead, so many have been moved into long-term care homes with heart-breaking results. COVID-19 demands that we re-examine the recent learnings from in-home care for seniors.
Our company, Bayshore HealthCare, visits more than 35,000 people every single day in their homes. Every day we arrive at our clients’ homes – as promised – and oversee clients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, tracheotomy care, ventilator care, advanced wound care, cancer care, palliative care, post surgical care, chronic disease management, pain and symptom management, home infusion services, and intravenous therapy.
Each week we provide more than 245,000 home care visits across Canada. You would expect that COVID-19 would take a toll on in-home client/patient care. Yet the data shows 0.36 per cent of our home care clients have had COVID-19, resulting in no deaths while under our care and, thankfully, only 0.1 per cent of our home care employees (or eight staff) have acquired COVID-19. This is a stark comparison to the almost 5,000 COVID-19 deaths in Canada’s long-term care homes.
Frankly, our home care teams are the quiet unsung heroes of healthcare. More importantly, our home care teams take critical pressure off our hospitals and the fragile heath care system.
But our message is this: our seniors deserve the dignity of staying home in their later years with excellent reliable care. Tragically, COVID-19 has proven that home care isn’t just a better experience, with this disease it has vastly better health outcomes.
Canada’s National 2017 Census revealed that for the first time ever our seniors outnumber children in Canada. There are now 5.9 million seniors, compared to 5.8 million Canadians aged 14 years and under. It is more important now than it has ever been to have enabling policies at the Federal and Provincial level to enable seniors to stay in their own home and receive the care they need and deserve.
The priority of in-home care providers has always been the safety of our clients and staff. Since the end of January, like the rest of the world, with little to no warning, we needed to step up to ensure our staff and clients were safe, including limiting the number of health care workers in any one client’s home. Not an easy task with 35,000 daily visits, each one with different needs; some seniors need only one shift a day or a week, but some require 3 or more caregivers within a 24-hour period. But we moved quickly, developed strict pre-home screening processes, COVID-19 infection and prevention practices and more importantly, we did it early.
Further advancements of digital health have also been realized which enable nurses and other members of the health care team to securely and conveniently connect with clients and their families to provide advice; support and guidance to help them better manage a medical condition or simply get answers to questions virtually. Through telepractice we can now remind seniors to take their medication on time or to visually assess an injury to determine if additional in-person care is needed. We also provide virtual counselling to support oncology patients, mental health and rehab therapy to keep patients motivated and on track to reach their health care goal.
In addition to caring for our clients in their homes, our home care teams have gone above and beyond when they stepped up recently to help with the crisis in long term care homes when there was no one else available to help. And they wanted to help.
There is little doubt multiple inquiries will be launched into the state of long-term care homes as a result of the horrible tragedies of COVID-19. But as we consider alternatives, let’s remember that the best option has always been to just allow Canadian seniors to stay home.
Maureen M. Charlebois CHE, MHA, BScN, RN
Chief Nursing and Clinical Officer