We Canadians love and cherish our health care system and with good reason! We have one of the best health care systems in the world. But the system is not perfect and to get the most out of the system you need to know how it works and how to work with it.
So for this article let’s focus on how it works. And more specifically, how it works with respect to seniors and elder care in Ontario. Here are the three things you need to know to get started:
#1. What is the LHIN and when do you need them?
The LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), formerly the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) is best understood as the gateway to publicly funded home health care. More simply put, if you want someone to visit your home for free (paid for by the government) the LHIN has to approve it and set it up. That’s why there are LHIN care coordinators all over the province who meet with families in the hospital, or at home, or after a doctor’s visit. They assess the situation and then assign care to meet the need.
Here are a few examples…if any of these apply to you, then you need to talk to a LHIN care coordinator:
- You are leaving the hospital and need help to transition home
- You have a new medical device for home and don’t know how to use it
- You have a wound and will need dressing changes at home
- You need help with daily activities like bathing/dressing after a hospital stay
Basically if you need help at home, you should talk to a LHIN care coordinator. And remember that you don’t need to wait for them to call you. You can call them at 310-2222 from any phone in Ontario.
#2. How does the LHIN really work?
The LHIN is a team of health care professionals (nurses, social workers) who use standard templates to evaluate a family and patient situation and then assign (or don’t assign) care based on the result (more on this later).
Once they have the care needs determined they issue the request to subcontracted private companies in Ontario (companies like CalaCare) to actually set up staff to visit and perform the duties approved by the LHIN (services like these). The companies the LHIN uses are typically very large home care provides (often national) with thousands of staff and thousands of clients.
All of this happens in an environment with only limited budgets and limited time, so LHIN care coordinators are often forced to make tough decisions about how much care is available and who gets it.
#3 – What’s important to think about when meeting with the LHIN?
Meetings with the LHIN are very important because they have a huge influence on how much (or how little) support you are going to get for home care from the government.
Tip #1 is to remember to describe your worst day. Many people put on a stoic front and do not discuss how uncomfortable they are handling their own catheter for example. Or they do not mention that although a family member is home to support some of the time, that family member plans to return to work soon and will not be home to support after that.
Tip #2 is to remember to advocate for yourself! Many people accept what their care manager says without challenging and advocating for what they think. For instance if the LHIN only plans to send support for 1 hr every morning, but you know you need support 3x per day, make sure you say so and that you say why.
Tip #3 is to remember that what is sustainable for the short term may not be sustainable for the long term. If you are taking time off of work to support a family member, that might work for a few weeks but not forever, so make sure you communicate that need to your LHIN care coordinator.
After the LHIN
Many families find the support offered by the LHIN to be less than they want. It’s in these situations that families turn to a company like CalaCare to fill in those gaps. For instance the LHIN may provide care for 1 shower a week, but what if you would like to take one every day? Or what if you would like a caregiver to assist you to be able to go out for lunch? The LHIN doesn’t have a service category for that. It’s these types of situations that our Care Managers are experts in dealing with. Give us a call to learn more!
Lastly, it deserves to be said that above all else, we love our public system and admire and respect all the hardworking people who dedicate their lives to making it work. Interested in why a private company would close the article with that thought? Have a look at what we believe to learn more!
Please leave any questions you have in comments, we’d love to respond!