The Office of the Seniors Advocate has released a new report, Home Support…We Can Do Better, which undertakes a comprehensive review of B.C.'s home support system and makes seven recommendations for improvement – both for seniors and Community Health Workers (CHWs).
For seniors, the system can do better by making the program more affordable. The report found that it's actually cheaper for a senior needing assistance and with an annual income of $27,800 to go straight into long-term care. This has contributed to 61% of seniors receiving no home support prior to entering a facility. Since long-term care beds are paid for by the taxpayer, it actually costs British Columbians more for seniors to enter long-term care prematurely than it would to better fund 1-2 hours of care for seniors at home, where they would prefer to be.
For workers, the system can do better by addressing chronic issues with hours and scheduling which leads to problems of recruitment and retention. As a worker, you are expected to put yourself through training at significant cost and then attempt to piece together a schedule that pays the bills in a workforce made up of 75 per cent casual or part-time staff. The report calls on the health authorities to improve incentives such as increased compensation and stable part-time and full-time positions. The report also calls for the development of standardized care plans that are expansive and flexible enough to empower CHWs to meet the needs of their clients on an as-needed basis.
During the press conference announcing the report, Isobel Mackenzie, the Seniors Advocate, was asked whether transitioning home support workers to the health authorities will help solve some of these problems. Mackenzie's response was positive and she made some good points about how the change could better integrate workers and reduce isolation; create more opportunities for workers to advance their careers within a larger institution; and also take advantage of training and continuing education opportunities with the health authorities. In addition, with one employer managing workers in various settings including long-term care, hospitals and home support, this may make it easier to provide workers with additional hours.
Scott De Long
Component 8 Vice President
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