November 30, 2012
An organization supporting seniors and disabled persons in New Brunswick believes the province’s current home care model should be improved, not replaced. The New Brunswick Home Support Association’s executive director Janet Gee said her association has been constantly and continually working with the government to better improve senior care, especially home health care, in the province and thinks introducing a new model wouldn’t best serve workers, clients or the public.
Last week, the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights released its recommendations for the government to better support the aging population, allowing them to live in their homes and communities, not in hospitals.
The coalition’s report looked at four areas of senior care that could be improved, including calling for a fully-funded public home care service.
“You have a model in place in this province … It is not government-funded,” Gee said in response to the recommendations. “For the government to take over, what a huge undertaking and an undertaking for the taxpayers that would be.”
NBHSA represents 42 agencies providing seniors and persons with disabilities assistance allowing these individuals to remain in their homes.
“We’re trying to raise the quality of home care provided,” said Gee, who added member and non-member agencies, private health care home including Access Home Care Inc, Bayshore Home Health, Co-Aide HomeCare and Support Services Ltd. and We Care Home Health Services in Metro, and Canadian Red Cross province-wide are willing to “step up” to make this change.
“If seniors got the quality of care when they needed it at the different levels, then that’s perfect,” said Gee. “There are certain stages where you might need a nursing home, but if you don’t need it yet how about some of the other services out there that make it possible to stay home?
“There’s a time and a place for everything, but shouldn’t it be easy to transition from one to the other and access these services?” she continued.
Gee said the association agrees with the coalition in that home care workers aren’t paid enough and are the lowest paid home support workers in the country (starting at $11/hour), which causes recruitment and retention problems in a time when workers are most needed.
“We’re in a situation where we have older workers and an aging population,” Gee said. “We have to be able to attract younger people into these field to look after all our seniors who want to be able to stay at home.”
She said the association’s members are in discussion with stakeholders regarding improved training, better wages, benefits and other career issues.
“We’re on our way there,” Gee said.
Most prominently, Gee said, the association and its members have been working with government partners from the departments of Social Development, Health and Post-secondary Training and Labour to develop a standardized training course for home care workers in the province.
The program is completed, recently earning provincial approval, and will be “the only acceptable training required by all home care workers beginning Oct. 1, 2013,” according to Gee, and the NBHSA will be the “gatekeeper of home support worker training in New Brunswick.”
Both current and incoming home care workers will receive this training.
Gee also recognizes the need for a up a 1-800-SENIORS toll-free hotline, through which seniors could have easy access to government information and services, and the in Tuesday’s Speech for the Throne this initiative was included in upcoming plans.
Cecile Cassista, the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights executive director, believes if home care workers were under the umbrella of the Regional Health Authorities they’d be better taken care of and recruitment and retention would be easier.
Cassista acknowledges and understands there will always be private agencies, but voiced concern for home care workers employed with private agencies, as she said many of them have no benefits and some work for minimum wage.
“Right now, what we’re experiencing … is that these workers who are doing home care work, mainly women … are being exploited,” said Cassista.
Gee said her association tried to connect with coalition, as well as other home care service providers, to share ideas for about a year and invited them to the association’s most recent AGM and Healthy Aging and Care Summit earlier this fall, while Cassista said they are open to working with associations, but as they aren’t funded by government they may have different views.