Investing in Home Care for the Independence of Yukon Seniors

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek South As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, September 25, 2015
by Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

In the course of everyday life, most of us do not think about our health and its relationship to our independence. We generally take our physical mobility and ability to look after ourselves for granted. But as we age, it is quite natural to require some sort of assistance to maintain our independence. Our government recognizes this need and is very proud of our long record of investing in supportive services to help seniors and elders stay in their own homes longer.

Yukon’s home care services are among the most comprehensive in Canada. We offer professional services such as nursing, social work, and therapies; personal care services such as assistance with dressing, bathing, dining, transfers and mobility in the home; and homemaking services, which focus on sanitation and safety.

National studies show that providing such services right at home is not only the preferred choice for many seniors, but is also the most cost-effective strategy. In Yukon, the average daily cost of home care services is $38 per day. In-patient care at the hospital daily rate is $2,101. With appropriate support, we have seen that some seniors with very complex care needs can return home from hospital and regain their independence.

In 2011, the Yukon Party campaigned on the promise to significantly boost supports to help seniors and that is just what we have done.

Since being first elected in 2002, the Yukon Party governments have steadily and consistently increased the budget for home care to ensure all Yukoners can benefit. In 2002/2003, the annual budget for home care was $2,071,779. The 2015/2016 budget is $5,992,406 – a significant increase in investment.

We provide home care services in Carmacks, Carcross/Tagish, Dawson City, Faro, Haines Junction (including the north highway), Mayo, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Teslin and Watson Lake, as well as in the Whitehorse area.

I am pleased to say that there is no waiting list for our home care services. Anyone who is covered under the Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan can apply to qualify.

The program works closely with First Nation governments, medical facilities and other community organizations to provide the most appropriate support.

Personalized home care is not the only service we provide that helps keep seniors in their homes. Yukon Housing Corporation has partnered through a funding agreement with the Yukon Council on Aging, which delivers the Home and Yard Maintenance Program. This program matches seniors with community residents registered to provide basic home and yard maintenance and upkeep.

Additionally, the Yukon Housing Corporation’s social housing program helps low-income households live independently. There are currently more than 200 units for seniors in communities across Yukon. In 2015/2016, we are adding 48 seniors’ units in Whitehorse and six more in Mayo.

In June 2015, the Yukon Housing Corporation launched the Accessibility Enhancement Grant, which can allow homeowners to upgrade their residences with accessibility features. This program helps seniors remain independent in their homes so that they are able to age in place. To date, the program has approved 14 applicants providing $314,000 for accessibility upgrades to homes. The grant program will run for two years and provide a total of $800,000 toward accessibility improvements in Yukon homes.

We are also proud to have established the Accessibility Advisory Committee, comprised of Yukon Housing Corporation and Health and Social Services staff, along with community partners from groups such as the Yukon Council on Aging and the Challenge Disability Group. This committee provides advice on accessibility features of new housing projects and on improvements that could be made to the Yukon Housing Corporation’s existing housing facilities. As well, the committee participated in the design of the Accessibility Enhancement Grant, and serves as the approval committee for the application process.

These programs help many seniors and their families, but some seniors have needs beyond what the programs can provide. For these people, Yukon offers long term care facilities that provide high level care.

To learn more about the range of options for seniors’ health care in Yukon and what your Yukon government is doing to support you and those you love, visit http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/continuing.php.

Last but not least, I want to thank the many hardworking and dedicated staff who provide home care and other services for seniors, and make life in Yukon better for us all.

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