It’s too early to know how a huge funding infusion from the B.C. government will impact the local home support program or the hundreds of home support clients living in the Greater Trail area.
Last week, the province announced a $500 million funding boost over four years for seniors’ care. Notably, $275 million of that will be directed into community-care services, which is welcome news for the local health authority.
“We welcome the news about the additional investment in home and community care services, as well as residential care services,” Kootenay-Boundary Health Services Administrator Cheryl Whittleton told the Trail Times. “Given this was only just announced, we are awaiting further detail on the specifics.”
From April to December of last year, community health workers across the Kootenay Boundary provided more than 100,000 hours of home care service.
Those hours will likely grow, given the aging demographic and B.C.’s health directive to assist people with daily living needs within their own homes.
Whittledon emphasized that one of Interior Health’s top priorities is to support people in the community and in their homes whenever possible – helping them avoid the need to access the hospital for health care or supports that are more appropriately provided outside of a hospital setting.
“Any additional resources for community-based services will support these efforts,” she said.
Interior Health currently employs 30 community health workers who as a team, support approximately 150 home care clients in the Greater Trail area.
“The hours for each client depend on their assessed needs,” Whittledon explained. “Currently, we are scheduling about 780 hours of home support each week in the broader Trail area.”
The $500 million boost and community-directed funding is part of a recent health funding agreement with the federal government to help meet the increase in hours and to improve quality of care, the ministry stated.
“The province plans to work with the health authorities and industry to hire about 1,500 additional staff, an estimate based on a 2009 provincial staffing framework, including health-care assistants, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. In addition, specialized community service programs operated by health authorities will be introduced in communities throughout the province to help proactively support the health of seniors with complex medical conditions such as frailty, dementia, multiple chronic illnesses or end-of-life care needs.“
The province stated other measures to improve supports for seniors will be spearheaded, such as additional home-support services and hours and increased home-health monitoring.
“Home Support is designed to supplement the efforts of individuals to care for themselves with the assistance of family, friends and community supports,” Whittledon said.
Services range from helping clients with personal care tasks in the morning or evening such as brushing teeth and getting dressed, to continence care and home bathing (showers or sponge baths) as well as medication reminders and light meal preparation.
“Palliative care needs in the home are also supported by home care staff,” Whittledon added. “Home support can also provide a break (respite support) for family members who are supporting their loved ones in the homes.”
Care is scheduled for clients based on assessments done by the nine home health nurses in Trail.
“Home support is arranged through the home health office,” she clarified. “Anyone looking for an assessment for home support services can call the Trail home health office at 250.364.6224. Family members or friends can also request an assessment on behalf of someone they feel will benefit from these services.”
According to the Ministry of Health over $2.9 billion was invested in home and community care in 2016 throughout the province, an increase of over $1.3 billion since 2001.
Over the next four years, funding increases will enable each health authority to reach a consistent average of 3.36 direct-care hours per resident across both publicly administered and contracted residential care facilities, according to the news release.
This was a key recommendation of a recent review of residential-care services by Parliamentary Secretary Darryl Plecas, and has been recommended by Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie.
“We learned a great deal through the review of residential-care services in B.C., and identified where more work needs to be done to improve care for seniors,” said Plecas. “I am confident that in moving forward with this fully funded acti