Home First strategy lacks substance: seniors’ coalition May 16, 2014

Allison Toogood 

Times & Transcript

The executive director of an advocacy group for the rights of seniors and nursing home residents says the province’s new strategy to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible lacks “meat and the potatoes”.
Cecile Cassista and the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights’ board of directors prepared a document yesterday in response to the Home First plan introduced Wednesday.
Cassista said the coalition was not appropriately consulted in regards to the strategy – a three-year pilot project which will see $7.2 million in funding for the first 12 months alone – and because of that, it has major shortcomings.
“There’s certainly not enough detail and information as to how we keep someone at home,” she said. “It talks about facilities, care homes and a plan for that but it does not get into the real meat and potatoes of the issue.”
In a press release, the province reveals it will invest about $1.6 million to develop and deliver a senior’s health, well-being and home safety assessment. This will provide those eligible with financial assistance for small in-home repairs and will assess individual senior’s needs in their residence. The home safety assessment is also transferable to caregiver needs.
In regards to nursing homes, the program will provide the Resident Assessment Instrument – Minimum Data Set, a computerized clinical tool, which the release said is meant “to enhance the assessment of individuals, generate data on which effective resident care plans can be developed and provide quality, comprehensive data for province-wide benchmarking, policy development and risk management”.
Cassista said this is worrisome for senior’s rights because it’s a step backwards. The province used to calculate senior residents’ assets this way.
“They’d assess your home, cottage, bank accounts,” she said. “They’d go through it all and we are very sensitive about that.”
The press release for Home First also explains more than $1 million will go to support the growth of the home support sector. Benefits include improved training for workers, recruitment and retention strategies, and the implementation of a new neighbourhood-based model of home support delivery that will provide more coordinated services for seniors and reduce travel time for home support workers.
The departments of Social Development and Health will invest $1.6 million and $605,000, respectively, to enhance the rapid rehabilitation for seniors, meant to assist with timely access to community-based rehabilitation services to ensure they recover from illness and injury and return home faster following a hospital stay.
The coalition, Cassista said, would like the strategy to include the elements it outlines in the document Aging in Place as key in quest to keep the elderly at home longer.
“They need to move in our direction,” she said. “Ours is not a secret, and we have reviewed it in 2012, 2013, and again, this year.”
Its recommendations for the proper way to support the province’s seniors to continue living at home, whether it’s a detached house, a condo or a co-op, include incorporating home support workers under the umbrella of the Regional Health Authorities, that daily fees’ calculations in nursing home care not include assets, to increase the nursing home and special care allowance to $288 per month, establish a long-term care act to house all policies affecting seniors and to have the responsibility of all long-term care facilities fall under the Office of the Ombudsman.
Cassista said the province needs exponentially expand its efforts in making seniors, nursing and special care home residents’ rights a priority.
She said the demographic continues to shift and in 15 years, a quarter of the population will be 65 or older.
“We talked about this with the previous government,” she said. “Again, I don’t think one is meeting the needs enough to put together an adequate start for people to age in place.”