Local health groups want more funds for senior services

Centretown health organizations say they’re hoping for a funding boost this spring from the provincial government to provide more home-care services to seniors.

The Champlain Local Health Integration Network announced in November that the Ontario health ministry would provide $23.7 million to expand in-home care and community health services for seniors.

The funding is for assisted living services, adult day programs, dementia care, and hospital discharge support, the agency stated at the time. The promised additional services for elderly citizens follows through on plans outlined in the Ontario government’s 2012 health care action plan.

The deadline to apply for funding was March 17, but seniors’ organizations have not been told when the money will be given out. The Champlain health network – which serves all of Eastern Ontario – must approve funding decisions and administer the provincial money to community health groups.

The provincial government has not set a deadline for responding to funding requests.

The Ottawa Community Support Coalition would administer funds to Centretown organizations, says Baudoin St-Cyr, director of Meals on Wheels.

Lisa Cowley, capacity developer at the coalition, could not be reached for comment.

The home-care service plan should be in place by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year, says Ann McSweeney, executive director at Good Companions Seniors’ Centre. The OCSC, Meals on Wheels, and Good Companions Seniors’ Centre all operate out of the same building on Albert Street.

“We don’t know if we’re involved until this has been approved by the LHIN,” says McSweeney. “There are other agencies other than ours that are also submitting applications.”

She adds: “They don’t have a deadline to respond to us. We have to put everything in place by April 1, so hopefully it would be previous to that.”

Good Companions home services include household chores and check-ins with elderly Centretown residents who live on their own.

“It’s great that we keep investing in home support services,” says Simone Thibault, executive director of the Centretown Community Health Centre.

The centre has teams of nurses and community health workers who visit seniors in their homes. These healthcare professionals provide medical care and make sure elderly people are taking care of themselves.

“If there is no food in the fridge, they can alert people who need to know,” says Thibault.

The CCHC serves about 15,000 people in the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Centretown. About 30 per cent of its clientele are older Centretown residents, says Thibault.

At-home care is what seniors want, adds Carol Seaby, founder of Ottawa-based At Home Hospice.

“It allows them to keep as much autonomy as possible and keeps them safe,” she says.

Seaby’s company serves more than 3,000 people in the Ottawa region. A majority of At Home Hospice’s clients are in the downtown area, says Seaby.

Elder care will continue to be an important part of Ontario healthcare spending because of demographic trends. Ontario will have more people age 65 and over than under 15 years old as early as 2017, according to a 2012 provincial government plan to improve seniors’ health care.

Locally, the City of Ottawa’s Older Adult Plan estimated seniors currently make up about 12 per cent of the population, with the number set increase to about 20 per cent by 2036.

“Home care is a choice elderly people should have and they want this choice the most,” says Seaby.