Health care starts at home

By Jenn Watt

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in Nancy Brownsberger’s office atCommunity Support Services with manager of hospice palliative caresupportive housing and assisted living Melanie Hawkins. We werediscussing plans for the department’s CSS Month which is designed tocelebrate and raise awareness for the work the organization does.

CSS is a branch of Haliburton Highlands Health Services that handles abevy of services from Diner’s Club and Meals on Wheels to palliativecare and assisted living. They’ve got about 200 volunteers and 14 staff.

The interview was going along as usual until I asked them to imagineHaliburton County without CSS. A chill went through the room as the twowomen entertained the notion of removing low-cost rides to dialysistreatments friendly visits to house-bound community members help withhousehold chores for frail seniors and an end to nutritious mealsdelivered across the county.

Many residents would leave as theystarted to age Brownsberger and Hawkins thought. Emergency rooms wouldfill up with those whose health had deteriorated without extra supportat home and the wait lists for long-term care would be exponentiallylonger.

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 LHINthat 60 beds at Extendicare need to be upgraded to conform to provincial standards. Councillors were vocal about the need to keep those bedsopen 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 thepopulation. In this county we only have 152 long-term care beds. Thisin a place with a quarter of the population over 65 and more than athousand of them living alone. Wait times for those beds range between68 and 201 days according to a brochure put out by the Community CareAccess Centre.

So while we advocate to simply maintain the numberof beds we have available for those who need 24-hour assistance in afacility we need to be just as diligent about funding and advocatingfor the at-home services offered by CSS as well as area non-profits andPSWs who help people stay out of the emergency rooms and long-term careunits.

We absolutely need more long-term care beds for thispopulation but in the near future our best bet is to enhancehome-based services. Expanding the reach of CSS and investing inprograms run locally would strengthen the support network already inplace.

Over the next month the Echo will be highlighting many of the home-based services available in this community through CSS.