Quebec injects $750 million over five years to expand home care

Seniors walk in front of their residence in Montreal. Many seniors would rather stay at home than enter care homes due to the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Quebec wants to increase and expand home care services, first for seniors, but also for families caring for a loved one or child at home.

Health Minister Christian Dube and minister responsible for seniors, Marguerite Blais, announced on Monday an additional $750 million over five years to improve the availability and scope of home care services.

This investment comes in response to the often-expressed need for seniors to remain in their homes for as long as possible, a wish that becomes difficult to achieve when care needs increase and home services are not available.

"We must keep in mind -- and this is a figure that is not known -- that 96 per cent of our seniors are either at home or in retirement homes. That's why we need to increase the amount of money spent on home care," said Dube. "What we want is for seniors to be served at home."

Both ministers spoke at length about the efforts their governments have made to date, but the pandemic has made it clear that much more needs to be done.

For example, many seniors have decided not to leave their homes and move to a residence for fear of being exposed to the a COVID-19 outbreak.

Although home care and services are also available in private seniors' residences, they are not readily available because the supply does not match the demand.

"We are talking about an intensification of services, but that also means accessibility to services," said Blais.

The minister highlighted the fact that "since 2018-2019, home support has increased by nearly 40,000 people," specifying that more than 16 per cent of the population aged 65 and over received at least one home support service.

GROWING DEMAND

"Everyone says it: we need to stay at home as long as possible, but the money has to be there," Blais acknowledged.

The demographic reality is that the population aged 65 and over is expected to increase by 578,000 people by 2028 and this influx of seniors will require a significant increase in the supply of home care services.

In the absence of such care, seniors with specific health problems have no choice but to go to the emergency room and then occupy long-term care beds, which clogs up the entire hospital system. Because of this, increasing the supply of services is not only useful, but essential, the ministry said.

Part of the money announced on Monday must also be devoted to palliative and end-of-life care at home.

A MOTHER'S STORY

MNA Marilyne Picard, who is parliamentary assistant to Dube, attended the news conference and is herself a caregiver, as her daughter has a severe disability.

Her testimony leaves little doubt about the needs of these families.

"These services can make all the difference in the daily life of a family," she said. "It allows us to work, to have purchasing power. It also allows the siblings to have all the attention they deserve. It also allows us as caregivers to keep our heads above water."

According to data from the ministry, some 400,000 Quebecers receive home care, while 12,000 people are waiting for a first service and 40,000 others are waiting for a second or third service.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 31, 2021.  

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