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News - Seniors - 2 Nov 2012

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Seniors: 2 Nov 2012
In-program care keeping seniors at home

Credit: A grey-haired old woman from the United Kingdom

CAMBRIDGE — An 86-year-old woman with serious medical issues is able to live independently thanks to a new program that provides personal in-home care.

An elderly man survived a heart attack after his personal support worker noticed he was unwell and called 911. He is now home.

These are two examples of an innovative program developed locally that links frail seniors with complex needs to community health services.

Run by the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre, this program is helping seniors with complex health needs stay out of health-care facilities.

“The goal is to allow these people to live at home independently as long as possible,” Tricia Murray of the Integrated Assisted Living Program told about 70 people attending a forum Tuesday on seniors’ housing and supportive care.

Called “Catching the Wave,” the forum discussed ways municipal leaders and social agencies can navigate the way for a future aging population.

In 2011, there were five million Canadians over 65. That number is expected to double to 10.4 million in 2036, said Nadia Frantellizzi of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

This upcoming wave of seniors means it is “crucial for municipalities to give priority now to seniors’ housing,” Frantellizzi said.

“The size of the older population is growing faster than the total population in Canada,” she said.

Forum participants also heard that in 2011, the average income for an elderly woman living alone was between $10,000 and $15,000, and for an elderly man, it was between $25,000 and $35,000.

That means housing must be affordable in addition to providing needed supports, said Ed Heese of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Murray said the supportive housing plan involved six urban and two rural neighbourhoods in Waterloo Region and Wellington County. About 30 seniors were involved in each neighbourhood.

Each senior had a personal support worker who would visit them daily and assist them with their medical needs and personal care and the worker would be on-call 24 hours a day.

“They are really happy to know that a person is only a phone call away,” Murray said.

The program started in 2009 and Murray said an evaluation showed that participating seniors spent less time in long-term care facilities and had fewer admissions to hospital compared to other seniors.

Provincial funding for the $5-million program ends March 31 and Murray said a request for an additional year of funding is still before the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.

Colin Carmichael, spokesperson for the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre, said he doesn’t know how much money was saved by keeping those seniors out of more costly health-care facilities.

“It is not only about the money. It is better for the client to have them in their home rather than in an institution,” Carmichael said.

Alf Ash/Frances Barrick, Record staff

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