Begging for Care: Keeping seniors healthy and at home
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Wed Feb 23 2011.
A wife fractures her spine while caring for her ill husband and becomes bedridden herself. She’s told she doesn’t qualify for home care so her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, struggles to provide what little care he can for her.
A woman exhausted from providing round-the-clock care for her mother-in-law, who suffers from dementia, begs for the help of a personal support worker. She qualifies for just three hours a week.
The province has increased funding to Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres which now provide home-care services to nearly 500,000 people a year. But, as these stories illustrate, too many in need still go without.
In their ongoing Begging for Care series, the Star’s Theresa Boyle and Moria Welsh have shown that officials who allocate the hours of medical and personal support feel pressured to provide as little service as they can get away with to make the limited dollars stretch.
The provincial government’s current priority – getting seniors who are in expensive hospital beds they don’t need back out in the community – is, unfortunately, making home care wait lists for others even longer.
“When someone is in a hospital bed instead of at home that means the system is not working the way it should,” says Health Minister Deb Matthews.
No argument here on that. But what of seniors who wind up in a hospital bed because the medical and personal support they needed to keep them healthy at home was not available? That, too, is a system that isn’t working the way it should.
With each unnecessary night in hospital costing taxpayers a fortune and contributing to emergency room delays and cancelled surgeries, it makes good sense for the government to focus on getting seniors who don’t need acute care into a nursing home, or, even better, back in their own homes.
But over the long term, the only hope of taming the growth in Ontario’s health care budget – it already consumes 46 cents of every program dollar – is to keep seniors healthy at home for as long as possible. That means restructuring our entire health care system, with a greater focus on prevention and community care, including more home care than is currently available.
With our rapidly aging population, changing family patterns and retirement savings insufficient to cover unexpected costs, the demands for medical and personal support home-care services are certain to keep rising. The government will never be able to satisfy all the expectations.
But nor can it afford to let those who have no other options fall so badly through the home care cracks that they wind up in the very place the government wants them least – a hospital bed.
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