Long term care at home - it's possible

Image: Long term care at home - it's possible

Spectrum's CEO Sandra Ketchen on long term care: it's a process not a destination.


Remember last year when long term care homes closed their doors to new residents in an effort to contain COVID-19? Seniors on waiting lists or transitioning from hospital to long term care had nowhere to go.

The Province turned to home care providers including Spectrum to support these patients, many with complex needs, assisted by mobility devices and living with cognitive impairments. The new High Intensity Support at Home (HISH) programs were an opportunity to test a different kind of care – intensive, even round-the-clock care at home – where we know more than 90% of these seniors want to stay.

Long term care is a process, not a destination. Even Ontario’s Independent Long-Term Care Commission Report highlighted home care as a preferred alternative to facility-based living. The Report, released in April, once again turned our collective attention toward the gaps in our thinking about what aging care means for our seniors.

We are calling on everyone in the system to rethink our approach to long term care. I’ve listened to government officials express the desire to keep seniors home as the default position – and yet, apart from extending HISH funding until the end of 2021 and removing caps on individual home care provision through the Connecting Care Act, there is no other investment into home care that will afford our seniors this choice.

The people staying home longer are the ones who have the financial means and family support mechanisms – creating further inequity in our system that was founded on a premise of equal access.

While the Report focused its many pages on the issues facing the facility-based long term care sector, it underscored the greater question of how and where people want to age, and whether our current models address those needs and desires of our seniors.

The Commission agreed with what the home care sector has been saying for years:

  • Seniors feel safer and happier living in their own homes. This was especially true during the pandemic.
  • Home care has never been funded sufficiently to be a real alternative to placement in a facility. Only 6-8% of seniors now receive publicly funded home care and those that do receive home care often have access to very limited hours of support.
  • Canada spends much less on home care than other nations where seniors report greater life satisfaction.

Undoubtedly there are seniors whose level of care is best supported in a long term care facility and investment must be directed to give these people the level and quality of care they deserve. However, there is also a much larger percentage of seniors whose care needs can be supported at home. HISH programs have shown us that this is possible.

Finally, the recommendation in the Report says it best:

“It is important to give elderly people choices regarding the care they receive and enable them to age at home, where possible. For that reason, the government should increase funding to home care services, including innovative models of delivering home care, and to community-based supports for seniors.”

So what is stopping us from giving our seniors this choice?