Home Care is “an array of services for people of all ages, provided in the home and community setting, that encompasses health promotion and teaching, curative intervention, end-of-life care, rehabilitation, support and maintenance, social adaptation and integration and support for the family caregiver.” (Canadian Home Care Association, 2002.)

Services delivered in the home can help people with minor health problems and disabilities as well as those who need intensive and sophisticated services and equipment. Home care services may include:

  1. Nursing
  2. Personal care such as help with bathing, dressing, and feeding
  3. Physiotherapy
  4. Occupational therapy
  5. Speech therapy
  6. Social work
  7. Dietitian services
  8. Homemaking
  9. Respite services

It is universally recognized that home care is the most popular and most necessary of services offered to aging Canadians. People want to age and die at home, but in order to do so, they need care and support. So why is it that home care continues to be underfunded and under supported by provincial governments?

Home care is not an insured service under the Canada Health Act but rather is a provincial /territorial responsibility with the federal government directly involved in federally fund home care for Veterans, First Nation & Inuit people, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Each province runs its own health care system separately; there is no guarantee of how many hours an individual may receive from the system. When public programs can’t meet the demand, individuals must purchase services privately. The Health Council of Canada estimates that 500,000 Canadians purchase home care privately every year.

Home care is once again in the news. As the country’s population ages and the public health system is bursting at the seams (See Winter 2011 newsletter “My 99-year old aunt: Bed blocker or a senior deserving fair care”, more families are turning to private home-health care – an industry that has seen revenue double to about $6.8-billion since 1999. Ontario has more than 10,000 people on wait lists for home-care services, according to a recent report by the Ontario Health Coalition, and that trend is a constant throughout the country.

The following statistics are courtesy of the Globe and Mail:

  • 30  Percentage of services in the home health-care industry that are offered by
    private companies.
  • 16.5  Percentage of people providing informal care to seniors who say they’re
    experiencing distress.
  • 6.8  Percentage increase of national health-care spending in each year over the past five years.
  • 26  Percentage of Canadians who care for a seriously ill friend or relative each year, with a fifth of them missing work to do so.
  • 86  Percentage of Canadians who said in March that home care is important.

1 Priority ranking of health care for Canadians in recent election-related polls.

Finally, almost one in five clients receiving home care services have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.