Navigating Health Care Series | Finding Extra Help When You Need It

By Valerie
June 7, 2016

Mr. Jones is an 83-year-old widower living in his own home. When asked, he’ll tell you he is doing “fair to middling.” He’ll go on to tell you his legs are tired and wobbly and he doesn’t get out as much as he’d used to.

He has a scooter, which gets him to town and back, but his vision is getting worse and he’s not sure how much longer he can safely use it. He likes listening to books on tape and watching sports. He has children, but they all live out of town. They worry about him. Mr. Jones has Lifeline, a housekeeper to clean every two weeks, regular meal delivery and relies on friends to help with grocery shopping and other tasks.

Mr. Jones knows that he needs a little more help to stay in his home and is a little worried about his future care needs but doesn’t know where to go to find information or what’s available in his community.

Maybe one of your parents is like Mr. Jones. Or perhaps you feel a little (or a lot!) like Mr. Jones yourself. Either way, there comes a time when an aging loved one requires more support and care to keep them as independent as possible. For some of us, caregiving becomes a part-time job and a full-time worry.

One of the most common question from seniors (and family caregivers alike) who are wanting to stay in their own homes for as long as possible is, “Where do I go to get help with bathing, medications or getting dressed in my home?”

There is more than one answer to this question. The best place to start is with a program called Home and Community Care with Island Health, the reginal health authority. The program provides community-based services to assist individuals who need personal assistance from illness, a physical challenge, to remain independent in their home for as long as possible or end of life care.

Eligibility for services is based on a standard assessment conducted by a case manager. A case manager does an assessment in-home to determine type and frequency of home supports, whether or not the person needing care would be a good candidate for adult day programs and/or placement in assisted living or a residential care facility. The case manager also works with the client and family caregivers to discuss a care plan and health goals.

If an older adult is eligible and accepts services, community health workers provide in-home support including assistance with bathing/showering, medication management, getting dressed, personal hygiene and toileting. Community health workers can also provide respite for family caregivers.

Accessing Home and Community Care is always done through a referral process. For instance, if you or an aging family member was in hospital and discharged, sometimes case managers at the hospital (called liaison case managers) organize home support, physiotherapy, occupational therapy or home care nursing to make sure clients have services in place when they return home.

In other instances, a family physician or nurse will make a referral to Home and Community Care if he or she feels additional support is needed. Or, a family caregiver, concerned neighbour or the senior themselves can make a referral to Home and Community Care.

Referrals can be made by calling 250-331-8570 or toll-free at 1-866-928-4988.

Once a referral is made, an intake co-ordinator will call to determine eligibility by getting details such as major health concerns and contact information. Have your BC Care Card number handy.

The time it takes to have an assessment date varies depending on the individual and their health needs. A good question to ask the intake co-ordinator is to ask about how long to expect to wait for the in-home assessment.

Once intake is complete, a time for an assessment is set. However, it’s not unusual for more than one health professional to make a visit.

For instance, if you’ve had a fall, a physiotherapist or occupational therapist may visit to help with exercises or mobility aids. Or if you have a wound, a home care nurse may provide treatment and education.

Keep a notepad by the phone and ask the person their name, what they do, which organization they are with and the date of the appointment. This helps keep track of information and eases with follow-up, if required.

If you are interested in reading more of this article, check out Wendy HERE in the June edition of the North Island Compass.

Two other great resources:

1. Sign up HERE to receive my weekly post on all eldercare and family caregiver matters. We also have a little fun – find the humour in aging, shake it up with videos coupled with great articles and tips.
2. “Get Your Eldercare Affairs In Order: A Planning Organizer for Seniors and Family Caregivers”. $9.99 soft cover book & $9.99 for PDF Ebook. They can be purchased at
This book is a comprehensive and easy to use tool for seniors and family caregivers to:

• Collect information in key areas in care planning.
• Provide practical caregiving resources, strategies and tools.
• Build the foundation of an eldercare plan – be it for yourself, an aging parent, a spouse or elderly client.
Who is this book for?

• A senior who lives alone without family nearby and long distance caregivers
• A family member who anticipates having to care for an in-law, aging parent or relative?


Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist (MA, Gerontology) and helps seniors and their families through the many transitions associated with the aging process. She can be reached at 250.650.2359 or online at

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC