What became of the plan for aging at home?

TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
Published On Tue Sep 27 2011.   By Carol Goar, Editorial Board

In his first term as Ontario premier, Dalton McGuinty made a firm commitment to Ontario’s seniors: “If you require care, want it in your home and that care costs less than sending you to a hospital or nursing home, we will make sure you get it.”

His health minister, George Smitherman, announced a $1.3 billion plan to expand Ontario’s home-care program. But the money never reached seniors. They still had to beg for one or two weekly home-care visits.

In his second term, McGuinty pledged to boost home-care funding by 33 per cent.

Smitherman announced a $700 million Aging at Home Strategy, assuring seniors they would get the support they needed to stay out of hospitals and nursing homes. “Our goal is to open a whole world of opportunity for seniors that will offer new lifestyle choices that are reflective of how Ontario’s seniors truly want to live,” he said. Two years later, he topped the plan up to $1.1 billion.

But the number of hours of home care available — even if a senior had a fiercely tenacious advocate — shrank.

Now, as he seeks a third term, McGuinty is promising to “invest a lot” in home care. “There will be a dramatic improvement as far as seniors are concerned,” he told the Star’s editorial board.

The Liberal platform calls for an additional three million hours of home care.

Asked what happened to his government’s Aging at Home Strategy, McGuinty looked uncomfortable but told the truth.

The health ministry had diverted some of the money to hospitals. (Although they had signed “accountability agreements” guaranteeing balanced budgets, many hospitals ran multi-million-dollar deficits.)

It won’t happen again, McGuinty stressed. “This time, it (home-care funding) won’t be gobbled up by the health system.”

Moreover, he added, a Liberal government would appoint a health-care coordinator, he said, “so when my mom is discharged from the hospital rather than being discharged into a confusing system where it is really hard for her to move from her family doctor, to the specialist, to the rehab to whatever the heck else makes up our great complicated system today, she’ll have somebody who will help guide her through it.”

In addition to that, he would give seniors a tax credit to help them install ramps, handrails and walk-in showers so they can stay in their homes; allow them to defer property tax increases until their home was sold and invest more in research into the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Total cost: $925 million according to the Liberal platform ($220 million solely for home care).

His rivals also promise to upgrade home care. Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is pledging to increase the province’s investment by $175 million. New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath is offering seniors an additional one million hours of home care. Her party would also provide housekeepers to them with laundry, meal preparation and cleaning. The two measures would cost $335 million.

What they’re all counting on — although McGuinty is the only leader who has said so — is that Ottawa will come through.

The current federal-provincial health accord expires in 2014. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government will continue to increase its contribution by 6 per cent a year until 2016. McGuinty wants a 10-year agreement with a special emphasis on improving health care for seniors. As an experienced negotiator, he maintains, he has the skill to press for it.

He makes no apology for his government’s eight-year record on home care. “We had a good start. Now we’re putting our shoulder to the wheel in a more determined way.”

He sounds sincere — just like he did the last two times.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1060622–goar-what-became-of-the-plan-for-aging-at-home >

1 Comment

  1. Whenever I hear people discussing the differences between Canada and the United States the most common theme I hear about is the Canadian health care system, what most people do not actually realize is just how flawed it truly is. I know for a fact I didn’t see the flaws until I started working directly in the field with one of the most poor and vulnerable populations: seniors.
    Homecare is such a vital part of the health care system, it is literally the only way to keep the growing population of seniors in their homes longer but due to the fact that homecare as it now exists was never around fifty years ago most seniors today are not financially prepared to pay out of their pockets for this type of care. Home care costs usually run about approximately 25$ an hour for personal support workers and home support workers. If one were to imagine having paid help for 6 hours a day 5 days a week you’re almost looking at about 750$ a week in homecare. Which in itself makes working not even worth it for children and primary caregivers.
    The problem essentially lies in the government not investing enough money into this system. If the government put more money into homecare it would create jobs for nurses and personal support workers as well as allow for more seniors to safely stay in their homes ( as often times due to insufficient funds seniors will try and stay at home and often get hurt trying to do things such as laundry, stairs ,bathing…)
    What McGuinty is proposing ($220 million solely for homecare) is pretty unrealistic as he has not even been able to live up to his last proposal during his previous terms as premier. But then again it is hard to really believe what both Hudak and Horwath are proposing as well because in my opinion it is not necessarily about the proposed funding it’s about who will actually follow through on their proposal. So really we want to look at the agenda and priorities of the candidates. Realistically have the conservatives ever wanted to put more money into programs like this? But who says that things can’t change.
    It is also important to take note to the fact that this will not be a cause that will need to grow forever, now insurance policies are now even offering plans that will in the future cover homecare costs ( what a genius idea) this will take some of the strain off the government in terms providing homecare for the entire aging population and it will allow people to be better prepared to stay in their homes for longer.
    I am providing a link to article that was written by the Sudbury Star that can show first hand what kind of a strain homecare can cause as well as the financial and emotional strain it can put on families. I provided homecare to this couple last year and due to cuts in funding they endured one of the worst possible outcomes they could have faced in their situation. I hope that no matter who is elected as premier for this term, they follow through on their proposed increases in the homecare.
    http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=3197197

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