Aging in Place: Community effort needed to keep seniors home
Keeping seniors in their homes for as long as possible is not the work of any one, single community group. Even Community Care Network – with its 9,000 clients across Kawartha Lakes – can’t do it alone. That’s why Mike Puffer, communications officer for Community Care Health and Care Network, says he likes to stress the word ‘network’ when it comes to all that they do. It takes a whole community to meet the needs of seniors, he says, especially when the work is centred on ensuring as much independence for people as possible, or ‘aging in place.’
Puffer points out that Kawartha Lakes is 50 per cent higher than the provincial average in terms of the number of seniors living here. (Nearby Peterborough County is high, too.)
In delivering on that support for ‘aging in place,’ Puffer says the top three programs Community Care offers in terms of size are transportation, supportive housing, and adult day programming.
Community Care’s transportation service provides thousands of rides each year to older adults and people with special needs. From medical appointments, community services, shopping and recreational activities, this is one of the best ways that people can remain independent and connected with the community, says Puffer.
“We have very reasonable rates,” he says, thanks to a high level of subsidy from the Province. In fact, about 80 per cent of Community Care’s funding is through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which is funded by the Province. Savings can then be passed on to clients.
Most people want to be in their homes as long as they possibly can, says Puffer, and Community Care’s services help keep this possible.
“Things don’t have to come to a halt when you get older.”
Community Care’s supportive housing program allows personal support workers (PSWs) to go into these homes to do laundry, cooking, or personal care. For things not on the services list offered by a PSW – like shovelling snow – Puffer says there are “brokered helpers” who can be found to do these things.
“They can decide on a decent, affordable rate,” he says, and “we subsidize when we can,” depending on the income level of the senior.
Adult Day Programs through Community Care are another important area to allow aging in place for as long as possible. With five adult day programs that are supervised by staff and volunteers, Monday to Friday, there’s food, games and entertainment.
“We emphasize the support this offers for the caregiver,” Puffer tells The Lindsay Advocate. “It’s so important that they remain healthy and have the rest they need, or the time they need, to do what they need to do.”
Community Care has an incredible number of volunteers – about 600 – who are spread out across Kawartha Lakes. If it wasn’t for them, says Puffer, they wouldn’t be able to do what they do.
Puffer says Community Care offers an entire “basket of services,” and all of them “combine to support aging in place, people with special needs, and people of all ages.” From the well-known Meals on Wheels program, to subsidized dental services, help at home, hospice and more, this particular Community Care has a high number of services they are able to provide, thanks to community connections.
“The continuum of care actually intersects and bisects all of our service areas. It’s the basics of why Community Care was founded – to help local people live independently,” Puffer says.
Graham Bashford is the owner of Castle Keep Retirement, a local business based in Lindsay and serving Kawartha Lakes. As the name implies, Castle Keep is a small business that is all about keeping seniors at home, too, and living independently, for as long as possible
From home care, companionship, cleaning, and maintenance, they offer a broad range of services.
Bashford says some common ways Castle Keep helps with aging in place, beyond personal health care, is through public transportation.
“Shopping for items is very popular,” Bashford says. “We often purchase a pre-paid Visa so we don’t need to worry about pin numbers or cash,” he says.
Sometimes seniors try and tip, but we don’t accept tips, he says.
“So, Community Care can take you to appointments which is economical, but we accompany to appointments, too. Kind of like a loved one being present so we can relay messages to adult children,” Bashford says.
The business owner says their cleaning services are also highly sought after.
“So many people in the community clean until they find full-time or part-time work and then leave the senior high and dry.”
As with Community Care’s experience above, respite so the primary caregiver can get a few hours off is also sought after.
“All too often a senior with advanced Alzheimer’s disease is physically fit, has good blood pressure, and can shower themselves. But they can’t remember if they had breakfast so they’re very dependent on a loved one,” says Bashford.
Castle Keep has done their best to help out in some unique ways, too.
“We have dressed up and went to weddings as a guest to ensure a grandmother can get there. I have personally also done family reunions and have been a ‘helper’ — so that is unique as no one wants to toilet their loved one at their wedding or their daughter’s wedding,” says Bashford.
Bashford says Castle Keep staff have gone “swimming at both the local swimming pool, but also support clients who move to the cottage for the summer and swim in the lake.”
“Tracey our operations manager, used to let a client enjoy a cigar in the tub once a week as that’s just what he wanted to do,” says Bashford. “We take clients to look at Christmas lights or see the autumn leaves, and have even brought clients to our Christmas parties. A veteran in Fenelon Falls keeps us busy indoor golfing in his basement during the winter.”
Bashford also run a ‘men’s group’ at Extendicare every Thursday to talk about politics, sports, the history of Lindsay, and hobbies – he finds it’s the perfect opportunity to make connections.
As for Mike Puffer at Community Care, he echoes the belief that in this business of caring, great connections end up being made.
“The relationships and friendships that end up being formed between clients and volunteers or staff can last a long time,” says Puffer.