What if you could live independently in your home for the rest of your life? Many Canadians dream of aging in place. Are you one of them?
By aging or living in place, we mean either staying in your current home or downsizing into a new home that’s a better fit for this stage of your life. For example, you may want a place that’s safer, easier to maintain, and closer to your family.
But as we get older, caring for ourselves gets harder. That’s when home care becomes an option. What’s a sign you’re likely eligible for government-funded home care? According to Heather Roach, a care manager at Bayshore Home Health in Richmond Hill, Ontario, it’s when bathing becomes too difficult.
And “chances are, if you need help with a shower, you probably need help with other areas,” said Roach. If you want to keep living at home without over-relying on family caregivers, you may want to explore the benefits of home care.
Is Home Care Free in Ontario?
The answer is yes and no.
Through the provincial government, health professionals and personal support workers (PSWs) can provide you—if you’re eligible—with many types of in-home services for free. For some families, these services suffice. But for many others, they don’t.
“People are definitely surprised at the limitations of government home care,” said Roach. “They will make sure that you get personal care.” Examples are help with showering, assistance in getting dressed, and medical support such as nursing or physiotherapy.
“They’ll maybe warm up a meal, and that’s truly about it,” said Roach. Free home care also supports people shortly after a hospital discharge, near the end of their life, needing palliative care, or with Alzheimer’s disease.
She said that waitlists are long and that government caregivers may come at inconvenient times. “You’re looking at probably six to eight weeks before you get assessed. Then, once you’ve been approved, they say, ‘Okay, our worker is going to be there at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday.’ And they have approximately 45 minutes to get you in the shower, maybe dressed, maybe give you your breakfast, and then they’re off because they need time to get to their next client.”
The Benefits of Private Home Care
To benefit from more hours of care, flexible scheduling, and additional kinds of care, 150,000 Ontarians purchase supplementary home-care services from agencies or independent healthcare providers. These Ontarians pay out of pocket or through insurance.
“When you hire a private company,” said Roach, “they’re able to cook the meals, do the laundry, do the housekeeping. It’s a concierge service, is how I always explain it. Whatever you need done, that’s what a private home-care company should be able to do for you.
“A lot of times,” said Roach, “my clients are coming to me and they’re saying, ‘My mom likes to have her bath before she goes to bed. The government home care can’t accommodate that; can you?’ Of course we can.” She said Bayshore’s caregiving team works 24 hours per day and can provide varying services at the time they’re needed.
Personality matches matter. “Not everyone gets along. We want to make sure that someone who’s coming into [a client’s] home ends up being like family. They’re going to end up sitting and having a cup of tea or coffee with them and may have to be able to have some good conversation.”
For the budget-conscious, is private home care out of reach? Not necessarily.
Take Advantage of HST Exemptions & Check Your Insurance Policy
“When you hire a private company, you don’t have to pay tax on their services,” said Roach. Under Ontario law, people receiving government-funded home care who buy additional home-care services are exempt from paying the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
Many people aren’t aware, said Roach, that their existing insurance plans cover home care. Bayshore can check their policies for them. “A lot of people when they’re retired, they still have those benefits [from their employer insurance plan]. We do the investigation and tell them exactly what they’re entitled to.”
So, private home care may be more accessible than you think. But is home care the best option for you?
Home Care or Retirement Community—Which One’s for Me?
Do you love your community? Are you happy in your home? Are you willing to invest in making it hazard-free and accessible? And can you afford the home-care services you’ll need?
If so, the benefits of home care may outweigh the disadvantages. “There’s been studies put out that show, if people stay at home in their familiar surroundings, they do better,” said Roach. One disadvantage? Some people prefer a lively social atmosphere and may be better off downsizing into a retirement community.
If home care’s the right choice, how do you access it?
How to Apply for Free Home Care
Contact your local Home and Community Care Support Services organization as explained on the Ontario government’s home and community care page.
A case manager will tell you whether you qualify for free home care and, if so, which services you can receive. If you qualify, your case manager will visit your home, create a customized home-care plan for you, and arrange for your care.
If you don’t qualify or you need additional support, Home and Community Care Support Services may be able to help you find appropriate community services or private home-care agencies you can contact.
How to Hire a Private Home-Care Provider
You can research providers online and contact them yourself. Choose a well-established home-care agency.
“I always recommend going through a company,” said Roach, instead of responding to an independent provider’s ad. She cautioned that home care is an unregulated industry and that anyone can start a home-care company.
“When you’re looking at a private company,” advised Roach, “you want reputable, you want to make sure they are fully insured and [bondable by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board].” She said all caregivers should pass a tuberculosis test, as well as a police check.
Roach’s final tip? “Ask a lot of questions,” she said. Home-care agencies are chock-full of advice. “If they’re willing to give you that advice with no obligation, I would say they’re a reputable home-care company.”
What about you (or your aging parents)? Should you stay in your current home—or downsize into a better living arrangement?