COVID-19 has disrupted healthcare on a scale that most of us have never witnessed, overwhelming long-term care facilities and stretching medical institutions to the breaking point. Yet in spite of the challenges, the pandemic is affording us a profound opportunity to fundamentally change the healthcare system by re-evaluating and strengthening our investment in homecare.
Home healthcare impacts your constituents across the age continuum. From parents, young children and millennials to seniors, no matter whether patient or caregiver, Ontarians desperately need a homecare system that is accessible, flexible and responsive. According to a new survey by Bring Health Home, 97 per cent of Ontarians believe there is a crisis in long-term care in the province, and 78 per cent say they would prefer homecare over a long-term care facility – if provided with the proper support and access to services.
Barbara, a home-based caregiver in Hamilton, Ontario, shares this story: “They said my husband needed palliative care. He had one major surgery, a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, an autoimmune disease, a stroke and multiple infections he contracted in the hospital. Then a lightbulb lit up my head. If he was home, he might survive, or he might not. The odds were the same with an institution, so he might as well be home. There were anniversaries and birthdays I didn’t want him to miss. So he came home, and it took a long time, but with homecare he got better. Homecare needs to be more accessible and more talked about so people don’t go without.”
Barbara’s experience is personal – but the need is universal. Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians have had to cobble together their own homecare plan, or know someone who has. From patients to families to caregivers, the treatment experience at home has long been synonymous with quality of life. And under present circumstances, the benefits of keeping Ontarians out of overtaxed hospitals and struggling long-term care facilities are amplified, pronounced and urgent. By shifting the idea of care from institution-focused to home and community based, your constituents could receive more access to the care they need at home – safely. In fact, the rates of COVID-19 cases in the home healthcare setting remain very low.
Home healthcare goes far beyond services for seniors. It’s a widely-held perception that homecare is limited to visiting nurses and personal social workers (PSWs), but the truth is that homecare is complex care that includes occupational therapy, wound care, palliative care, cardiac rehab, cancer care, post-operative care, pain management, diabetic education and management and maternal care. This deep, broad range of services is particularly important mid-pandemic when capacity issues in the healthcare system are having a ripple effect, impacting wait times and access to treatments and igniting safety concerns for Ontarians with conditions and diseases that are wholly unrelated to COVID-19.
This year, the Progressive Conservative government announced significant investments in home and community care services. These injections are steps in the right direction, but don’t alter the fact that continuing, direct and expanded support is vital to modernizing the homecare system and delivering the robust quality of care Ontarians deserve.
Greater investment would enable the expansion of homecare services and the development of new models to allow aging in place. It would allow providers to address the wage gap that currently undermines recruitment and retention of frontline staff to ensure that homecare nurses, PSWs and therapists are compensated on par with their sector counterparts. And a new approach to provincial homecare management would streamline access to care so that patients and their families could quickly and easily source referrals, assessments and care planning strategies that efficiently and effectively meet their immediate and evolving needs. A stronger homecare system means a stronger healthcare system. Properly supported, it can improve the quality of life for Ontarians while simultaneously easing the strain on caregivers, institutional care facilities and frontline workers. But it only happens with your help. Learn
more about how your constituents can benefit from better access to home healthcare.
Together we can learn from the pandemic experience, taking advantage of the opportunity to reimagine the role of home healthcare and make positive, long-term changes that benefit Ontarians for generations to come.
This piece was provided to QP Briefing by Bring Health Home.
Bring Health Home is made up of Bayshore HealthCare, Closing the Gap Healthcare, VON Canada and SE Health, four frontline home healthcare organizations. Collectively, they make 24.6 million home healthcare visits a year and deliver home healthcare services to more than 633,000 Ontarians. Each organization brings decades of experience, and between them, they provide more than 50 per cent of home healthcare services in Ontario.