The focus on building long-term care facilities has dominated the attention of both the provincial and federal governments as well as the population at large. And why wouldn’t it? The government’s focus on protecting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic downloaded the problem to these same facilities resulting in thousands of deaths. These deaths tragically highlighted the gaps in these facilities and its corresponding backlash was impossible to ignore.
Throughout the pandemic, however, there was another sector of health care that felt even greater pressure: home care. Home care in Ontario is broken and it is the worst kept secret.
Home care recipients and personal support workers (PSWs) constantly complain to the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA) about the following concerns:
- Staff missing their work shifts
- Lack of proper training
- No continuity of care
- Unverified PSWs
- Theft of property and bank accounts
This needs to end. Home care is cheaper, almost universally seen as the "preferred" option when trying to age with dignity and is ultimately the direction our society is heading towards. Why is this the case? It is because no one wants to be forced from their homes at the end of their lives to be warehoused until they die alone in a government or corporate facility. This is cruel.
So where can we start if governments are unable or unwilling to act? It’s simple. We start by establishing a standard of care for home care recipients. This costs society nothing and requires home care providers and recipients to agree on best practices that currently do not exist.
An example of this would be the new Home Care Accreditation model introduced in Ontario by the OPSWA in January 2022. This cooperative and voluntary model sets the first step in standardizing care that simply encourages employers to hire PSWs who are members of their provincial professional association.
No one wants to hire a nurse who is not a member of their professional association so why not expect the same from home care providers? PSWs who are members in good standing must complete an annual background criminal record check, carry official photographic identification, and are fully insured and qualified.
Thankfully, this model is beginning to take root in Ontario where a rapidly growing professional home care community is emerging. This will set this province apart from all other jurisdictions in this hemisphere by establishing a new community of care based on a solid foundation to house future successes.
If your Ontario home care is not OPSWA-accredited – I ask one question – why isn’t it?
The best way to change home care is to start with the families themselves who are asking for the highest standard. Too often it seems that home care is an illusion of safety. Recipients of home care believe that they are in safe hands with their PSWs or uncertified caregivers.
The OPSWA and our partners are regularly asked whom to call when an uncertified care worker steals their parent’s home and assets? Sadly, the answer is no one. If an uncertified care worker can change property title, there is little recourse for families other than to start rebuilding their wealth from scratch.
Maybe one day other provinces will follow the lead in Ontario and together we can build a new home community from scratch – until then we must look forward, be positive and always insist on the highest standards by making sure your Ontario home care provider is OPSWA-accredited.
This article was written by Miranda Ferrier, the President and CEO of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA), and is a piece of sponsored content.