Who’s Taking Care of Your Loved Ones?

The Truth Behind Home Health Care Services

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In today’s society, no one likes to think about getting older. We’re wrapped up in the latest and greatest- the gadgets, the vacation destinations… There are endless lists of top trends for everything. Things become obsolete before most of us even get the chance to experience them for ourselves. 

We’re divided by these possessions and obsessions. Often we simply don’t have the time to learn about our peers through any other means than their social media profiles. It’s hard to imagine the world before we had grids. 

What about those who aren’t living in the social media grid? We often push thoughts of aging and becoming one of our elderly community into the far future; to be brought up later- when it is more relevant to us. We assume that we will be taken care of in life. We work, hard- every day to provide for this future.

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I live in Canada, where our health care system is well known. We take this health care for granted. Every time we have an issue, we simply go off to the doctor, and it gets resolved without much thought on our part. We sometimes hear of people in special circumstances who are in need of something not offered by our universal healthcare program. These people have to travel out of country to pay out-of-pocket for the interventions they need. 

It is because of this health care system that we often don’t put much thought into what will happen as we age. We assume we will be in good health, sound mind; and able to ask for and receive what we need throughout our lives. We see elderly in our communities and assume that they are receiving exactly what they need to maintain the quality of life that we are accustomed to here in Canada. 

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What do we envision when we make this assumption? We imagine that when an elderly person finds themselves in need of assistance; they simply contact their doctor. The doctor would then send out a request for services in the home, and in no time at all; a caregiver would then step in to fulfill this need. 

It’s a little more complicated than that. A senior who needs care (or a loved one on their behalf) would need to contact the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network). Within two to six weeks of making a request to the LHIN team in their area, they receive an in home assessment. During this assessment the LHIN will assess the quality and safety of the home, as well as the abilities and care needs of the person in question. They will take this assessment and determine what kind of municipal, provincial and/or federal funding the person in need qualifies for. 

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As a result of this assessment, a request is send out to the local care provider. In my community, all residential care contracts are sent to one company. This provider then will determine wether or not they have the means to fulfil this contract with their existing care workers. 

Right now, in the community I live in; the one care company responsible for fulfilling contracts is severely understaffed. They have been running on low staffing for years, and in the past few months they have had to turn down- and even cancel contracts for care on a regular basis. 

Even those who are already receiving care are cut back in hours, or refused time due to staffing issues. The visits they can provide are rushed, at best. The workers in these companies are often expected to provide 12-14 hour availability each day, 5 days a week. They are obligated to work every other weekend, and most Friday nights. 

When they do get scheduled to care for a client, they are expected to complete care in the least amount of time possible. This means that although a client is approved for anywhere between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours for a visit; the worker is expected to complete care and move on in 20 minutes to a half hour. They are rushed on to the next person, and not even given time to accurately assess the client’s well being before leaving. 

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Where does this leave our loved ones? They are often aware of the time constraints put on their support staff. They are told how many visits the worker has to complete. They are aware that the worker is planning on working quickly to continue down their list. Often this leaves the client feeling as though asking for any more than what they are offered in that short span of time would be inconvenient to the worker. They begin to prioritize the worker’s time over their own satisfaction. 

If you were only provided with 45 minutes to change, shower and have a meal prepared for you; would you feel as though that was enough? 

We are all people pleasers, in our own way. Receiving personal care is awkward – at its best; and uncomfortable for everyone. When someone is already feeling uncomfortable- they are unlikely to push the boundaries and ask for more assistance. 

Often the person in need isn’t informed of their visit length, and they are left to assume that they were provided with only 20 to 30 minutes for care. They are never corrected, and therefore they never know to complain if their care contract outline is not being fulfilled. It’s common for a person in need to take it upon themselves to do as much as possible to prepare for the visit – to save time for the worker. They strain themselves trying to make it easier for the staff.

This isn’t right. The entire purpose of these visits is to alleviate stress from the person in need. The staffer is there to assume the strain, to provide assistance. Not to be helped. In fact, going out of their way only serves to remove services from the home. They are assessed every 6 months, and any service they are able to struggle through on their own is in turn removed from the list in an effort to save time for the worker. 

What do we do then? 

How can we make lives easier for these people who have blazed the trail for us to have the life we have today?

We can start by being more present. Be more involved in your elder family’s lives. As we age, we gradually become less able. This is a fact of life. After providing life, shelter and guidance for the younger generations of the family, I would think our elders have earned at least a helping hand.

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If you can’t reach in and help with household management, shopping, and assistance on your own, maybe you could look into assistance from others in your community. 

There are people who will help with grocery shopping, transportation, housekeeping, and personal care. These services don’t necessarily have to replace what could be provided through the LHIN. Ideally, it would be to supplement the care; and provide for the best possible quality of life. 

Always, remember that the best thing you can provide for your loved ones is your time. Stop in, visit. Offer to be there for them during meetings and appointments. Advocate for them to receive the best possible care that they can have. Be their voice, like they were your voice when you were younger. 

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. As we age it takes the same level of support. Be a part of their village.

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What could I tell you? I am on a mission in life to help everyone I can. I don’t have the backing of a multimillion dollar charity behind me, but I have a big heart and bigger dreams. Proud mama of two, furmama of one, chef’s wife and full-time do-gooder. Thanks for joining me in this rollercoaster we call life!

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