Real problems begin after leaving hospital, seniors say

Home care difficult to access, starts too late

For the most part, Dorothy Thompson said she’s happy with the care she’s received at Health Sciences North and in her own home.

But the local senior, who told her story at a Sept. 19 hospital-organized seniors’ health care forum, said she went through a lot of hassles during the transition between these two branches of the health-care system.

For example, when Thompson was discharged from hospital after breaking her arm, she didn’t receive any home care services until two days later, and was forced to wear her hospital gown until she could get some help with dressing.

She also had to make multiple phone calls in an attempt to get the home care services she needed. As a former nurse, Thompson said she didn’t give up because she knew these services were available to her.

“But if I were 85 years old, and Ukrainian, and English was not my first language, I wouldn’t have bothered, and that is a problem,” she said, adding that she thinks the process of setting up these services should be simpler.

One of the officials participating in the seniors forum was Richard Joly, CEO of the North East Community Care Access Centre, the provincial agency responsible for home care.

While not a “perfect process,” Joly told those at the forum that people can actually contact Health Line at 811 to receive information about health services. The service can also be reached at

“It’s a jem,” he said.

Thompson said a friend’s mother went through a similar experience recently after breaking her ankle.

This senior didn’t receive home care services until three days after her discharge from hospital. Luckily her family was available to help out, as her accident occurred on a weekend, Thompson said.

“Seniors want to be at home,” she said. “They don’t want to be in hospital. They want to be in their own bed, they want to watch their own television, they want to have tea when they want it.

“But if we’re going to be going out of hospital, you have to have the services for them. You can’t wait two or three days. It’s just not possible.”

While she’s generally happy with the care she received at Health Sciences North during three recent stays, Thompson did have one comment — seniors should get out of bed more often so they don’t lose muscle mass and become weak.

When hospitalized herself, she made sure she got out bed as soon as she could, as she knew it was important, but noticed nobody helped the woman she was sharing a room with onto her feet

“I think if you walk in the hospital, you should be able to walk out,” Thompson said. “I think that’s one of the problems, that there isn’t enough activity.”

Health Sciences North vice-president of clinical programs David McNeil emphasized during the forum the hospital is working on initiatives to prevent functional decline among hospitalized seniors.

Getting seniors out of bed more is one of these steps, he said.
Several people participating in the event’s question and answer period said the caregivers of seniors also need more support.

“Who’s going to help these elderly people who themselves are not well?” said Monique Taylor, who said she was representing the city’s retired teachers group at the forum.

“They are doing it, because we promised to ’til death do us part, and Ontario’s now keeping us to our promise … I know they are given respite, but not enough, and it’s too hard.”

Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Sudbury president Pat Douglas, who was the forum’s MC along with Joly, said she’s the caregiver for her 92-year-old mother, who is still living in her own home.

While she’s appreciative of the services available to her mother, it’s still not easy, Douglas said.

“I must say, I have not had a holiday,” she said. “I have not left Sudbury for the whole year. If you’re going to take on the job of a caregiver, it draining. So you do have to have respite, that’s for sure.”

The forum’s keynote speaker, Toronto geriatrician and provincial seniors strategy lead Dr. Samir Sinha, said many caregivers aren’t even aware of the services that are available to them, so communication clearly needs to be improved.

Future home and community care funding increases may also target respite for caregivers, he said. The province is also working on putting together a strategy to better support caregivers, Sinha said.

Caregivers generate about $35 billion in savings for taxpayers each year, Sinha said.

“That’s almost the entire cost of our health-care system in Ontario,” he said.

“But clearly, if people want to aspire to be a caregiver, we have to help them to be the best caregiver they can, and we have to be able to support them to caregive in the ways that make the most sense to them.”