Where do we go for help when we want to make our home more senior friendly or accessible? Who can help us when we need to move? What do we do when we don’t have a family doctor and seek non-urgent care? Whom do we call when we are too sick to manage our care on our own?
I’m sure most of us have had these questions on our minds, asked by others, or even asked others ourselves. These are common concerns for many of us who wish to prolong an independent lifestyle, but recognize a need for guidance and assistance in the future.
On August 30th, 2018, Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS) group met with two representatives from the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and Karen Anne Blakely, Director of Community Services Abbotsford House, to discuss concerns such as these. This meeting was the result of e-mail correspondence between Eric Partington, Director Sub-Region (Central Ottawa) Champlain LHIN, and myself about making LHIN services more accessible to residents of Old Ottawa South.
The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) organizes and funds 120 health service providers in hospitals, community support services, mental health and addiction services, community health centres, and long-term care homes.
Obviously our lives and the quality of our lives depend on our Champlain LHIN. So there is definitely a need for continued dialogue between LHIN representatives and us, the grassroots consumers, to test if and how this enormous organization meets actual needs! Yes, the information on www.champlainlhin.on.ca,the well-organised website, is very impressive and seems convincing, but how does that translate when we need a family doctor, want a check-up, or need help? How many of us turn to this website?
Indeed, the Champlain LHIN’ s April 2018 Engagement Summary Report does identify current issues such as:
- increased need to home and community care
- need for more affordable, appropriate housing options
- addressing transportation challenges
- increasing co-ordination services
- the need to address social determinants of health and focus on prevention
- increasing awareness of health services among patients and providers, streamlined referrals, and navigation supports
And thus, the overall 2016-2019 strategic directions of the LHIN are Access, Integration, and Sustainability. And so the SWOOS meeting turned out to be a local, Old Ottawa South, engagement where real issues were presented and solutions considered. The meeting provided additional information and clarification, but also raised additional questions.
1. If you need a family doctor call 1-800-445-1822 or register online via Health Care Connect. Currently, in the K1S postal code, there are 338 residents waiting for a physician. This is problematic because your GP is the main point of contact for medical referrals. OHIP no longer covers annual check-ups at walk-in clinics. There you depend on the judgement of an individual physician to decide if Complete Blood Count (CBC) and other routine screening tests are necessary. Likewise, where do older people go when they are a “Risk for Falling” when they don’t have a family doctor? Falls are the main reason why older people lose their independence! And where do people go for follow up with chronic health conditions? If prevention is the key focus, it is crucial that seniors-at-risk are able to access guidance and support. The adage “patient-focused treatment, etc.”, as seen in hospitals and other health care providers should not be hollow words.
2. Regarding medical care, it’s fortunate that we live in the catchment are of the Centertown Community Health Centre, 420 Cooper Street, Ottawa, ON (613)233 4443 www.centretownchc.org. Their website provides a good overview of services, including exercise classes. Their Outreach Nursing team is directly involved in the community, including home visits. Information at (613) 233-4697.
3. www.Livinghealthychamplain.ca offers self-management courses for people who want to live a healthy life with chronic health conditions. It is a resource, but I don’t know if it meets a significant need.
4. The Ottawa Community Support Coalition, www.ocsc.ca, has a very useful functional website, but staff and telephone contact are no longer available. This website provides information on community resources in our area, such as Abbotsford House, when looking for Home Support, Home Maintenance, Respite Care, Medical Transport, and a Luncheon Club; it’s best to call Abbotsford directly at 613-230-5730. Staff at www.caredove.com informed me that this “platform” is for service providers only.
In person, I visited six community resources to get an idea of the diversity of supports available for independent seniors living in different areas of our city. My table is covered with eye-catching pamphlets and booklets. The “Old Forge” Directory of Resources for Senior Citizens of Ottawa provides a good overview of a wide range of services, most I didn’t even think of! Unfortunately, funding for this booklet has been cut. Instead, one can search on line at www.Champlainhealthline.ca. This also provides a wealth of information. The difference is that an old-fashioned printed index in a booklet gives an overview of resources, whereas an online search can lead one astray for hours!