Homecare: What the Physician Should Know


Deborah Simon
Vice President Health Services
VHA Home HealthCare
Toronto, ON.


If you were to ask your elderly patients where they would prefer to live in the event of significant illness or disability, most would probably say they wished to remain at home for as long as possible. Many seniors cherish their ability to live in familiar surroundings, close to their neighbours and perhaps family members. At the same time, they fear the loss of independence involved in living in an institution.

One key community resource that can help your older patients fulfill their desire to live independently is home health care--the delivery of nursing, professional therapies, homemaking and personal support services to a person in his or her home. In a 1988 U.S. survey, older adults with long-term care needs stated a clear preference for home health care.1 The home may also be the most appropriate and compassionate setting for palliative care for the elderly patient with a terminal illness.

Yet many doctors are not fully informed about home care: what these services entail, how they can benefit their patients, and how to access them. Further, doctors may not be aware that the delivery of home health care in Canada has changed dramatically in the past several years. Hospital patients are being discharged "quicker and sicker" than ever.