At the Health Council of Canada, we’re developing a report on home and community care for seniors in
– a topic of national interest in the current media, most recently discussed in CBC’s Metro Morning.radio show. Canada
We’re finding that the majority of care for seniors who are disabled, have multiple chronic conditions, or dementia is provided by family and friends. Not surprisingly, as the needs of the senior increase, so does caregiver distress. Although each province and territory offers publicly-funded home care services, eligibility, types of services, and hours of care vary across the country.
We’re speaking to family caregivers to add real-life stories to our report. What we’re hearing is that home care services (primarily provided by personal/home support workers) are helpful, but often insufficient. In some cases even the maximum allotment (14 hrs/week in one province) is not enough to be able to run necessary errands and rush back before the time elapses.
In addition, night care can be exhausting if the care recipient wakes frequently. More opportunities for caregiver respite provide much needed breaks so that caregivers can carry out their responsibilities while maintaining their own health and wellbeing. Those who can afford to fill the gap, do so by purchasing additional services. Those who can’t may rely on occasional help from family and friends, but more often will become overburdened and distressed, both physically and mentally.
Shifting resources to home care can help seniors stay healthier in their homes for longer. Research shows how home care services can help alleviate pressures on the system by avoiding hospitalizations and delaying entrance into long-term care homes – a subject of interest to us, as are the specific practices and programs that are making a difference. Supporting caregivers and allowing for more opportunities for respite ensures that care recipients can maintain a desirable quality of life at home and their caregivers can remain healthy and avoid becoming hospitalized themselves.
I will be presenting on these and other issues at the Canadian Home Care Association Summit on October 24, 2011.
Look for our full report on home and community care for seniors in 2012!