It’s either pay for private home care or move away from home

Alice Wylie, 89, sits at a long wooden table in the TV/game room at Carewest Glenmore Park rehabilitation and recovery centre. At about 4:30 p.m., the sun is beginning to set through the window behind her.

Bright beams of sunlight warm the back of her purple shawl. Half an hour before dinnertime, Wylie enjoys some “Wheel of Fortune” with her new friend Vera Toye, 85.

The two ladies met here at Carewest Glenmore Park about four weeks ago after they both fell and were hospitalized due to injuries.

Recovering from a fall, major surgery, brain injury or stroke are all too common situations in which Calgary seniors need short-term physical rehabilitation. Where to receive the necessary care before and after recovery is usually a matter of dollars and cents.

“This is only going to become a much larger issue down the road.”

— Mark Brodie,
Home Care Assistance owner

With Toye’s broken arm now clad in a navy sling after suffering a slip on the ice, she laughs at Wylie as she talks about her situation. Among Toye’s giggles, Wylie explains that on Dec. 27, her apartment at her seniors complex in north east Calgary caught fire, and on Dec. 29, she broke her wrist — now in a hot pink cast — coming out of her brother’s home.

Three days later, her car was stolen. The situation is so ridiculous that both ladies can do nothing but shake with laughter, wiping away their tears.

Samara Cygman, manager of communications for Carewest, says that seniors are often transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility such as Carewest in order to receive help necessary for recovery.

Vera Toye, 85, and Alice Wylie, 89, enjoy some evening television at Carewest Glenmore Park recovery and rehabilitation centre before dinnertime.Photo by: Alyssa Quirico

Clients, she says, are sent home only when a physician and Alberta Health Services transition co-ordinators determine the clients to be physically able to care for themselves if there is no one else with them at home who is able to help.

Services provided at Carewest include one-on-one time with a physical therapist, occupational therapy to help with daily living skills and recreational therapy involving social activities and group exercise.

Wylie and Toye say that they enjoy morning exercise and evenings of Scrabble the most.

Carewest is a subsidiary of the Alberta Health Services offering short-term rehabilitation and recovery programs covered under Alberta Health Care.

However, if the client needs to be admitted to long-term care afterwards because they still cannot live alone, accommodation fees are then charged to the client.

As of Feb. 1, fees for patients staying in long-term care in a hospital or care facility are increasing. The fees in Alberta per day are $55.90 for a private room, $48.40 for a semi-private room and $45.85 for a standard wardroom.

Wylie says that she’s been told she may be able to go home next week. If she still has trouble dressing herself, a caretaker from Alberta Health Services can come to her home to help her dress and put her to bed until she can do so on her own.

Mark Brodie, owner of Home Care Assistance in Calgary, points out that home care provided by Alberta Health Services is only provided to a level that the person is assessed at by a transition co-ordinator.

He says that Alberta Health Services will not provide a client with care outside of medical home care.

This is when the client may need to either be transferred back into the hospital for long-term care or move to an assisted living facility.

Private non-medical home care is also an option available to seniors in need of recovery depending on their assessed level of care.

Non-medical home care involves help with anything outside of the client’s medical needs such as bathing, cleaning, dressing and basic exercises.

However, non-medical home care does not offer physical therapy simply because their caretakers are not trained for this, says Brodie.

Home Care Assistance does, however, work with the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured, who will train Home Care Assistance’s staff to help with continued rehab for brain-injured clients at home.

Unfortunately, the province does not subsidize non-medical home care in any way. Brodie notes that some people may have insurance that will cover some or all of the cost, but it is rare.

Therefore, a client like Toye — who is used to shoveling her own sidewalk, mowing her own lawn and planting a garden every summer — would not be transferred home if she could not live independently and could not afford additional private care outside of medical home care.

Brodie says that the range for private home care is from about $20 to $30 an hour, depending on what the agency charges plus tax. He would not reveal what the live-in rate is but he did say, “It’s a big number.”

The advantage to private non-medical home care as opposed to medical home care provided by Alberta Health Services, says Brodie, is that the caretaker can be there to help for however long is required which can be up to 24 hours a day for live-in care.

Brodie says that oftentimes a senior chooses to have non-medical home care come in for their own peace of mind to know that they will be safe at home, even if not recommended by a doctor. He adds that the goal of private non-medical home care is to eliminate the need for someone to have to either go back to the hospital and pay for extended care or to have to move to an assisted-living facility.

He insists that this effort needs to be recognized by the province.

aquirico@cjournal.ca

Corrections: This article has been updated to correct a few errors. It was originally said that patients were transferred to one out 12 Carewest facilities. This is not the case. Seniors are often transferred from the hospital to one of three Carewest facilities that offer short-term rehabilitation. It’s also been clarified there are other options available.

Carewest was mistakenly identified as a subsidiary of the now-defunct Calgary Health Region.

We apologize for the errors.