In Canada health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, which means that the type and level of care, as well as the programs that are accessible to seniors, varies by province. The unfortunate result is that inconsistent care is provided across the country, a frustrating fact for many seniors, caregivers and families.
Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) were first created in Ontario in 1996 and are now well-established, though, seriously underfunded. For decades Ontario and other provinces have been working on solutions to provide seniors and their caregivers access to the support services they need, but it has been a difficult task.
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In 2008 Ontario started a four-year “Aging at Home Strategy” which was aimed at helping seniors stay out of hospital and long-term care communities by receiving home care so that they could age in place. In 2011 the Toronto Star published the expose “Seniors Find Little Care in Provincial Aging Strategy,” where authors Theresa Boyle and Moira Welsh wrote that the “$1.1 billion strategy is failing many seniors by not providing the care they need to continue living at home. Most of the money has been diverted to a provincial plan that provides home care for seniors discharged from hospital beds and to provide care for very sick seniors so that they do not go to hospital emergency rooms.”
Boyle and Welsh went on to report that “almost 5,000 seniors are stuck in Ontario hospitals though they no longer need hospital care. The cost of a day’s hospital care can be as high as nine times the cost of a day’s home care.”
The solution, according to Boyle and Welsh was that “the province has to redistribute some money to community care access centres and community agencies that want to care for seniors who have stayed out of hospital and are trying to live at home.”
In fact, that is what the province did. In March 2013 Ontario went even further, creating Community Health Links to “break down barriers for Ontarians starting with seniors and those who have complex conditions, making access to health care easier and less complicated.”
The barriers identified include difficulty providing access for seniors in Aboriginal, First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in Ontario, an at-risk group that faces increased health risks compared to the rest of the Ontario population.
With the slow evolution of Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres over the past 20 years, it isn’t surprising that many Ontarians are doubtful as to whether the CCAC network can actually help their parents. Stories of long waiting lists and denied applications make many people hesitant to even try.
The fact, though, is that CCACs have evolved and are now better funded and more equipped to help than they were in the past. The secret to ensuring a positive experience with your local CCAC is to contact them before your family faces an emergency situation.
Many people wait until a fall, illness or another trigger event pushes their parent or a caregiver into asking for help. People in this situation will likely have to wait to receive the care they need, although in emergency situations the length of wait will depend on the nature of the emergency, location and subsequent demand for services.
Rather than waiting for an emergency, consider talking to your parents now about an unforeseen trigger event. What are their expectations for care? Have they made any plans of their own? Then, contact your local CCAC to see what type of information you will need to start a future application for care. Whether you’re looking for home care or want to get on the waiting list for a long-term care home, it’s useful to have the information needed for the application on hand.
Keep in mind that CCACs provide access to more than just home care and long-term care homes. They also provide relief for caregivers, access to support groups, and can connect you with local organizations that can provide information about an illness, or even help you rent a walker or other mobility device for your parent.
The point is that CCACs can offer individualized care suggestions for your parent, so you won’t really know your options until you reach out to your local CCAC and ask for assistance. Most people find them to be of great help.
Community Care Access Centres were established to help the public access government-funded home and community services, and long-term care homes in Ontario. CCACs work alongside doctors, hospital staff and other health care specialists to provide access to home care, supportive housing, or a long-term care home.
This network of local agencies is set up to provide people with information about local support service agencies and connect people with local care agencies and services. CCACs help people:
Anyone can make a referral to a CCAC including a family member, caregiver, individual or health professional. To apply to a long-term care home or local home care services you can contact your local CCAC (there are 14 situated across the province).
Professional, personal support and homemaking services provided through a CCAC are available for free.
If you live in a province or territory other than Ontario, you can click here to find information for seniors, family members and caregivers by province.
Do you use community care access centres? What other solutions have you found to provide seniors and their caregivers access to the support services they need? Share your solutions with us in the comments below.