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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Elderly and their caregivers need support to remain at home

At the Health Council of Canada, we’re developing a report on home and community care for seniors in Canada – a topic of national interest in the current media, most recently discussed in CBC’s Metro show.

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!

Shilpi Majumder, Policy Lead, Health Council of Canada

Key Words: Home and Community Care, Primary Health Care

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more. Often we tend to focus a lot on the elderly and how to take care of them, forgetting the very person tasked to care for said people. After all, how could the caregiver do his/her job if he/she can't function one hundred percent? Adding more support to home care would greatly benefit both the elderly and the caregivers, leading to better relationships for both sides.

    Theodore Wong @