Imagine yourself with one of your parents (or a close family member) in the emergency room of your local hospital. A variety of medical tests are performed over the many hours you wait. Finally, your parent is admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of a fractured arm and low blood pressure which caused the fall. After a few days in the hospital to stabilize, the Doctor tells you that your parent can go home.

The Doctor gives you a prescription for new medications, mentions some medical equipment may be needed at home, provides follow up appointments that you need to book and scribbles on the pad of paper something about a home care assessment.

Before you can absorb all of this information, your parent expresses concern over their meal preparation and being alone at home for the next few weeks.

To complicate matters, you have a full-time job, as do your siblings.

What to do, where to start?!

Navigating the healthcare system in most of our communities can be overwhelming with questions such as:

  • “Who do you call, when do you call, how do you coordinate all of the medication, testing and physician/allied health appointments?”
  • “How can I make sure my parent will be okay? Be safe?”

A good place to start is in the hospital, while your family member is staying there. Each hospital has a social worker and/or discharge planner. This person can assist you in getting ready to go home. Ask your nurse or Doctor for the contact name of the discharge planner/social worker for your hospital (there are usually more than one).

Keep a medical notebook and write down all information given to you, including contacts and their information. Include questions you may have to be answered.

If in-home support is required, the Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN) is usually the first contact to be made. This is the “Government paid” home care, (no cost to patients) and includes physiotherapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) and Social Work.

Our regional LHIN is called the Waterloo Wellington. Be aware that all LHIN-based homecare does not start on the day of or day after discharge. There is a waiting period. A WWLHIN preliminary intake is first done over the phone, and then a LHIN Case Manager will come to you to assess the circumstances for in-home support. You do not need a referral to get in-home support. You can call for yourself or your family member at 519-823-2550. You will need your/family’s full name, address, phone number and date of birth.

The WWLHIN in-home support is free and the hours allocated to patients are based on the ability of the patient to bathe, dress, and feed themselves (Activities of Daily Living or ADLs). If you/family can perform all of these functions yourself, the chances of receiving the “free” home care are low.

If you or your family member requires in-home support, yet the LHIN has not allocated any hours for you, the other option is to purchase private home care. This type of home care is paid by patients and/or their families and/or extended healthcare insurance.

Private Homecare organizations vary in cost per hour, caregiver vetting processes and minimum hours required for support. Ask about these variables when researching and comparing the organizations.

Written by: Laura Greenway-Balnar, Right at Home Canada-Guelph

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