Health care starts at home
By Jenn Watt
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in Nancy Brownsberger’s office at Community Support Services with manager of hospice, palliative care, supportive housing and assisted living Melanie Hawkins. We were discussing plans for the department’s CSS Month, which is designed to celebrate and raise awareness for the work the organization does.
CSS is a branch of Haliburton Highlands Health Services that handles a bevy of services from Diner’s Club and Meals on Wheels to palliative care and assisted living. They’ve got about 200 volunteers and 14 staff.
The interview was going along as usual until I asked them to imagine Haliburton County without CSS. A chill went through the room as the two women entertained the notion of removing low-cost rides to dialysis treatments, friendly visits to house-bound community members, help with household chores for frail seniors, and an end to nutritious meals delivered across the county.
Many residents would leave as they started to age, Brownsberger and Hawkins thought. Emergency rooms would fill up with those whose health had deteriorated without extra support at home and the wait lists for long-term care would be exponentially longer.
The role CSS plays is absolutely crucial to the functioning of the rest of our health-care system and the wider community.
It’s also a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining our population and assisting the senior population.
Last week, county council heard from the CEO of the Central East LHIN that 60 beds at Extendicare need to be upgraded to conform to provincial standards. Councillors were vocal about the need to keep those beds open in order to properly support residents and to maintain good jobs in Haliburton.
Extendicare is a private company and is looking at the provincial regulations, but hasn’t said what it plans to do.
The discussion shone light on an already underserviced part of the population. In this county, we only have 152 long-term care beds. This in a place with a quarter of the population over 65 and more than a thousand of them living alone. Wait times for those beds range between 68 and 201 days, according to a brochure put out by the Community Care Access Centre.
So, while we advocate to simply maintain the number of beds we have available for those who need 24-hour assistance in a facility, we need to be just as diligent about funding and advocating for the at-home services offered by CSS as well as area non-profits and PSWs who help people stay out of the emergency rooms and long-term care units.
We absolutely need more long-term care beds for this population, but in the near future, our best bet is to enhance home-based services. Expanding the reach of CSS and investing in programs run locally would strengthen the support network already in place.
Over the next month, the Echo will be highlighting many of the home-based services available in this community through CSS.