What is Homecare and is it a Good Option for your Senior Loved one?
Home care services for seniors within and outside the provincial continuing care system:
Seniors often imagine a future where they age gracefully at home, within their communities surrounded by loved ones and friends. Many want to live independently and keep their home or move to a smaller place. There is a sense of safety and comfort that seniors receive by living at home that enhances the quality of their lives. Many have worked and saved for years to purchase their home and have no intention of leaving it. It also makes sense on an economic level to keep seniors living healthily and happily at home as supportive living and long term care are costly investments to the taxpayer. Sometimes medical needs and concerns can impede a seniors ability to live at home. Their are a number of options, public, non-profit and private that can help seniors attain the help they need to live at home even when their health begins to fade. If you notice your senior loved one needs help due to medical problems or concerns you can them assessed by Alberta health Services (AHS). If they meet AHS’s criteria they may be able to receive health supports and some personal services covered by the provincial continuing care system.
What is the Provincial Continuing Care System?
Our provincial Continuing care system is run by Alberta Health Services (AHS). According to their website Continuing Care is defined as:
an integrated range of services supporting the health and well-being of individuals living in their home, supportive living or long term care setting. Continuing care clients are not defined by age, diagnosis or the length of time they may require service, but by their need for care.
You can learn more about their many care and living options online at: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/cc/Page13328.aspx You can also access needed information by calling Healthlink #811.
Who can get Continuing Care?
The provincial continuing care system is available to persons who reside in Alberta, have an Alberta health care number or have applied for a card and/or are otherwise eligible to be covered by the Alberta Health-care System (AHS).
Senior can be referred to the continuing care system by anyone in the community, including their doctors, family members and/or friends. Seniors are then assessed using the International Resident Assessment Instrument for Home Care (Inter RAI-HC) to see if they are in need of services within the Continuing Care system. According to AHS “The RAI HC Assessment tool is user friendly and measures a range of medical, physical, and mental abilities or challenges in a single test”. Learn more at http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/cc/Page13335.aspx
This assessment is often conducted in the seniors home or in a hospital by a transition team. Seniors are then matched with a Case Manager to help them access the continuing care system and receive services suited to their needs. These needs are determined by the acting Case Manager, the assessment and through discussions with the senior and their family. From here a personal care plan is developed by the Case Manager that outlines the kind and level of care the person receives. The seniors unmet health-care needs can then be received through in-home care, supportive living care or long term care.
Ninety percent of Albertans who responded to the on-line survey agreed with the statement ‘I want to live in my own home during my Senior years’. Often called ‘aging in place’ this principle forms a major cornerstone of nearly all senior related planning, including, transportation, housing, and service delivery. (Findings Report, Alberta Seniors and Community Supports, Demographic Commission, December 2008).
Publicly Funded In-Home Care
To facilitate the above survey statement AHS provides in-home care services based on a seniors unmet health needs as determined by the Case Manager and their assessment. Seniors receiving in-home care have someone from AHS or someone from a company contracted by AHS to assist with basic needs and services such as bathing, toileting and/or taking medications. These individuals typically come and deliver care at a scheduled time. As these services are funded publicly they are provided at no cost to the senior.
Get more about exact in-home care services covered by AHS Note: Still waiting for answers from a representative at AHS.
Seniors can also opt to participate in AHS’s Self Managed Care Program. Under this program seniors that qualify to receive AHS home care can:
enter a legal agreement with AHS that provides them with resources to directly pay for and manage their personal care and home support services. This funding is based on the person’s assessed unmet health. Learn more from: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/seniors/if-sen-self-managed-care-brochure.pdf
Such legal agreements are a valuable option for seniors as it allows them to make choices as to who will be their service provider for their personal needs. They do not have to settle for services that they find lacking or unsatisfactory. It affords seniors the opportunity to hire qualified persons and services that are more in keeping with their own beliefs and values. More information regarding the Self Managed care program can be obtained by visiting http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/seniors/if-sen-self-managed-care-brochure.pdf or calling Health Link at #811.
Private In-Home Care:
Given that a vast majority of Albertans wish to age at home, the ultimate goal is to find ways within the Continuing Care system, public and or private to allow this to happen successfully. The public provincial system provides for a seniors health and personal needs as assessed by the Case Manager and RAI-HC described above. It does not, however, provide for the seniors every need to remain at home. Seniors often have to turn elsewhere to meet their remaining wants and needs. Family caregivers can end up taking on many responsibilities to ensure their parent’s safety and health while living at home. Such seniors and family caregivers can find additional resources and services through private in-home care.
What are the benefits to providing private in-home care for your senior loved ones before they enter the Provincial Continuing Care system?
Seniors who receive care services at home have less chance of becoming sick as a result of infection or other contagious illnesses. This alone keeps seniors healthier and safer for lengthier periods of time. Seniors can have a weakened immune system compared to others in the general population. Seniors living in supportive living, long term care and or hospitals can run a higher risk of contracting the flu or other illnesses that may be spreading through these facilities. Once infected seniors also have a longer or more difficult time recovering from such illnesses. This can unfortunately lead to repeated visits to the hospitals, prolonged stays in long-term care facilities and/or eventual death.
With professional caregivers to look out for them and ensure a safe home environment, seniors reduce their risks of falling or having accidents. A simple fall or small mishap can land a senior in the hospital overnight and can lead to a prolonged in-facility care. It is very difficult for seniors to fully recover after falling and/or incurring an injury. According to learnnottofall.com, about one-third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually. those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again. Falls are the leading cause pf death due to injury among the elderly. Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions, 40% of those admitted do not return to independent living; 25% die within a year.
As seniors age, they can experience fatigue and or lack of appetite. They may experience difficulty with cooking healthy food and eating on a regular basis, resulting in under nourishment or other medical concerns. In-home caregivers from private home-care companies can help seniors and their family caregivers by grocery shopping, stocking the fridge with healthy foods and preparing healthy meals using fresh ingredients that suit the individual tastes of the senior. Good nutrition and regular eating helps maintain the health of your loved one so that they can remain at home longer.
A major advantage of having private in-home care is that it allows seniors to exercise their rights and privileges as consumers. Being able to choose and have flexibility in terms of what personal services they want and when they want to receive them empowers both seniors and their family caregivers. Even seniors who receive home care from AHS can benefit from also having private in home care services, in that it affords them more options and opportunities. Services already received from AHS can be complemented or augmented by private in-home care thereby improving your senior loved ones overall quality of life.
Many seniors may be resistant about accepting outside help as it affects their pride and takes away their sense of independence. For this reason, they rely on themselves, close friends and family caregivers for many of their needs. This can put a strain on family relationships and friendships. For seniors who do not have access to the provincial continuing care system, because they do not meet the criteria as yet, having private in-home care services can familiarize them with the process of being helped in a consistent manner by other people. This can later ease the transition from home care to higher levels of care should the senior need this in the future.
Perhaps the best reason for having private in-home care services before the senior enters the provincial Continuing Care system is that keeping them safe and healthy at home is much more cost effective, in the long run, than being placed in supportive or long term care living facilities. Designated supportive living and long term care can cost seniors and their families upwards of $1500 per month, dependent on their assessed needs and ability to pay. In the private sector the cost can be higher to obtain supportive living and long term care. While it may seem counter intuitive, seniors and family members alike can save money by paying for private home care services to assist their loved ones. Spending money on home care now can potentially allow a senior to live happily at home for many more years thereby offsetting future expenses of having them age in-facility.
How can private In-Home Care services help family caregivers?
It is equally important when exploring home care options to recognize the needs of family caregivers within Alberta. This is a group that is often marginalized or neglected by government when considering senior care. A number of Albertans have senior loved ones that do not yet qualify for services by AHS and find themselves overwhelmed by the added responsibilities of caring for them as well as other family members. As well, they have work demands and other daily tasks/concerns that take up their time and energy. Even when seniors are eligible for home care services by AHS they may receive them for a short amount of time each day. Many family caregivers and seniors need extra assistance throughout the day and find themselves wanting a higher level of service. Such people can benefit greatly by receiving in-home care services from private companies.
We at Harmony offer a number of services to aid both seniors and their family caregivers in-home and in- facility. We provide companionship to help seniors feel comfortable and secure within their homes while also engaging them on a social level. We offer assistance for seniors in the areas of house cleaning, grocery shopping and healthy meal preparation. Our professional caregivers can also provide seniors with personal care services such as helping with bathing, toileting, grooming and dressing. Through our many community partnerships we can bring a variety of outside services to your loved ones home, including but not limited to, hair styling, foot care, nail care, massage and reiki and healing sessions.
At Harmony we believe it equally important to offer services to family caregivers. When travelling by airplane the flight attendant instructs us to first put on our air mask before helping anyone else with theirs, the reason being that we can not help anyone if we run out of oxygen ourselves. The same holds true for family caregivers, like candles without oxygen, they can burn out when their emotional resources are depleted. Services for the senior and the family caregiver alike can prevent caregiver burnout thereby allowing them to spend time with their loved ones doing activities they enjoy, as opposed to those that cause fatigue or frustration. To this end we offer services like medical accompaniment so that family caregivers do not have to take time off work for their loved ones medical appointments. We also offer a caregiver support group aimed at helping caregivers to connect socially, talk about their concerns and practice self care.
There are times when a seniors health may decline and they are in need of services beyond what can be offered in the home. When this occur seniors can benefit from other living arrangements such as supportive living or long term care. Please stay tuned for our next article which explores some of the living options available within Alberta.