Oct 15, 2014

By Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and Sonja Alcock

October is Community Support Month. This is intended to increase awareness and celebrate the achievements of what community support services are and why they are an important part of the health care system. Home and Community Services are critical in helping family caregivers and supporting seniors and persons with physical disabilities to remain in their homes. Land O’ Lakes Community Services (LOLCS) in Northbrook is one of 600 agencies in this province alone, which provides a wide variety of services such as adult day programs, Meals on Wheels, transportation to medical appointments, Home Care, Diners’ Club/Congregate Dining programs, caregiver support services; Diners’ Club; Home Help/Homemaking.

The inability to keep up with the growing health budget is a concern for government and Ontarians alike; by supporting a strong and robust home and community care sector, the government gets better value for the dollars they spend. Home and community support services such as Land O’ Lakes Community Services are the key to a sustainable healthcare system.

Community Support agencies are working with their partners: the Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) and other health care providers to integrate care for Ontarians. Their services help alleviate backlogs in emergency rooms and get people out of hospital beds and back home with programs that help them manage their chronic diseases, and reduce demand on long-term care homes and acute care health services.

Basic Facts about Home and Community Support agencies:

  • They work to strengthen and promote home and community support as the foundation of a sustainable health care system.

  • There are over 600 community based organizations providing services…which include over 25,000 paid staff…and 100,000 volunteers across Ontario!

  • These agencies are community governed and not-for-profit; many are charities like LOLCS. This means that when surpluses occur they are reinvested back into services/programs for clients.

  • In addition to program funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, our agencies also fundraise in the community and often charge low client fees for some services to help offset what is not covered by the government funding and fundraising efforts.

  • Home and community health service providers deliver compassionate, cost effective health and home care to one million Ontarians per year. These services support people to live independently in their own home, thereby delaying or avoiding the need for long-term care or reducing the need for more expensive health services such as hospital care. Thus improving their quality of life.

  • Most, if not all, these agencies would not function at all without the many volunteers that willingly give of their time, talent, and trust to help those in their community.

  • The population is aging and the prevalence of chronic conditions and disabilities is on the rise. Ontario’s senior population is expected to double in the next 15 years. Almost 80% of Ontarians over the age of 45 have a chronic condition, and of those, about 70% suffer from two or more chronic conditions. And persons with disabilities develop age-related diseases much earlier than the general population – at 50 years of age. They also have much higher incidents of chronic diseases.

On a happy note: the quality of life is improved when individuals can receive a range of personal and medical care services at home and in their community. The impact of community support and supportive housing on clients has been researched in Ontario [Lun, Simonne, & Williams, 2005]. Some of the indicators arising from that research include: reduction of emergency department visits; reduction of 911 calls; reduction of caregiver burden; improved mental well-being [peace of mind]; increase in personal perception of health and social connectedness.

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