How can home-care users hold personal-support workers to account?

August 8, 2018
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Shirley Parent, 80, has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. She lives on her own in London and relies on public home-care services: four times a day, personal-support workers get her up or into bed and change her briefs -- activities that require the use of an overhead sling lift. ParaMed, one of the three private agencies that provide her care, helps her in the afternoons and evenings.

Last Christmas, Parent says, one of the workers (ParaMed requires that two be present to operate the lift) arrived half an hour late. "They had problems putting on the sling, and I thought I was going to fall off the chair," she says. "It was as if they had never put on a sling before."

Just one worker showed up to assist when Parent returned home later that evening from a holiday dinner at her daughter's home. Parent and the worker called ParaMed for help. The agency sent a male worker, although Parent had previously requested that it send only female assistants (home-care providers are required by law to be "sensitive" to such requests). She says that the man handled her roughly and that the workers failed to discard her soiled briefs or clean her wash bowl.

Parent says she has complained to her Local Health Integration Network, which administers home- and community-care services, four times this year -- once, about the Christmas incident, at a face-to-face meeting with her caseworker in January, and three times, about other incidents, over the phone in March. Each time, she says, "some changes were made, but they slipped back." Parent has also complained to a local MPP, whose assistant merely referred her back to the South West LHIN.

According to the Toronto-based non-profit Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, problematic home-care experiences like those Parent describes are common. "There's a steady stream of calls to our agencies about home-care issues, particularly about quality of care," says executive director Graham Webb. Common problems include workers not turning up on time (or at all) and workers not doing their assigned tasks (or doing them badly).

"We do need more oversight of the delivery of home care in Ontario," Webb says.

Read more: How can home-care users hold personal-support workers to account?