Navigating Home Care Services

Contacting the public home care system

Sandra Loewen, a manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, describes how to assess the problems an aging parent is experiencing, and find ways to get help that sustains independent living.

When the family feels mom or dad is having trouble living independently, the first step is to discuss the situation with the parent, and visit their physician for an assessment of all physical and mental symptoms.

If your parent needs more help to live at home than your family can provide, home care may be able to help. In Canada, home care is generally managed on a regional level, so your regional health authority should have a home care contact telephone number.

Sandra recommends doing some home work before calling that number by talking to friends who have helped their parents access support services, to learn from their experience.

When you do call the home care number, you should be prepared to answer a series of questions about the needs of your aging parent. Based on your answers, they will recommend next steps.

They may suggest specific services you should investigate, or, if they conclude that your parent may need help to live safely at home, they may put you in contact with a case worker who will visit your parent to perform a needs assessment. The case worker can bring in other professionals to consult on various mental, physical, or medication issues. The case worker will decide whether home care services are required, and will also be able to recommend other services which the family may want to arrange for the parent.

Private home care services

In Canada, the administration of home care, and the extent of service provided, varies across the country, because it is provided by each province. However, home care services are generally provided on the basis of the assessed needs to allow an elder person living at home, beyond what the family can provide. Eligibility is based on need and residence in the province, not on income.

Sandra explains that those who can afford to pay for private home care can enjoy more control over who provides the services to them, and what services they get.

Companies that provide private home care generally offer a range of services, including "companions", who do not have specialized training, but can, for instance, provide company and assistance in running errands, and "health care aides", who are trained to provide personal care assistance.

Sandra says that the best way to approach private care companies is to prepare a list of the services that the parent needs, and then participate in an assessment processes with one or two companies to see which services and people would best fit the parent's needs.

Moving to a seniors' home

People are seldom enthusiastic about moving out of a familiar home, and it can be quite disruptive to their lives. However, there is a range of options to choose from for those who need it.

For people who can live independently, but are having difficulty living in their home, one option is to consider an "assisted living" residence. This is typically a privately owned building which rents apartments to seniors with a package services, which might include meals, social programs and light housekeeping.

Sandra suggests that families considering assisted living with an aging parent should determine what services they need and/or want, and then help their parent do some comparison shopping by doing a tour of a number of buildings, preferably staying for a meal and talking to some of the residents.