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Explainer: In the face of a long-term care crisis, Quinte region working hard to care for the elderly

By James Tubb [1]

BELLEVILLE – The controversy facing the Ontario government over the conditions at long-term care homes during the pandemic, along with the announcement of an expanded community paramedicine program, has drawn into focus the levels of senior care in the Quinte region.

In Belleville, there is a diversity of services and programs to assist the elderly, from living independent lives to moving into a place where they can get all the assistance they need.

One-quarter of the people living in Bellevill [2]e are seniors. Those aged 64 and up are 25.1 per cent of the population, and in Quinte West [3], the same age group makes up 21.7 per cent of the population, according to the 2016 Census. 

Last week area MPP’s Todd Smith (Bay of Quinte) and Daryl Kramp (Hastings-Lennox and Addington) announced that the Ontario government [4] would be investing $5,946,200 over the next four years to expand the community para-medicine for long-term care program to Hastings and Prince Edward counties. The purpose of this initiative, being delivered by Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services [5], is to help more seniors as they wait for long-term care to stay safe while living in the comfort of their own homes.

Politicians were quick to point out the program takes the strain off of emergency departments and shortens the waitlists for long-term care homes is the ability for remote monitoring of vulnerable residents. 

Patients in the program could be provided with remote monitoring devices that send their vital information to a communication hub that would be monitored all hours of the day. A community paramedic is then be notified if a person’s vital number, like blood pressure or temperature, falls outside of expected values. This would allow the paramedic to be able to respond quickly to help.

These community paramedics help address the unique healthcare needs of frequent users of the paramedic service and local emergency departments. These trained paramedics visit patients in their homes, providing out-of-hospital treatments and decreasing the strain on local emergency departments. Community paramedics also conduct wellness clinics and engage in remote patient monitoring. 

The elderly either require help with everyday tasks or need a wellness check-in every once–and–while to ensure they are okay. This goes a long way to helping the elderly live at home.  These services are something that the Quinte region has a lot of as it has adapted to help its aging population. 

For those who don’t require any assistance but would benefit from the support of their community, there are a lot of programs to help with the day–to–day activities that may not be easy the older you get. 

The Community Care for South Hastings [12] has its meals–on–wheels every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for older adults and adults with disabilities that may be able to live on their own but would have a hard time putting together a full nutritious meal. For Quinte West, the Victorian Order of Nurses Canada [13] provides the same meal service. 

In November, the city introduced a community initiative [14] called Snow Angels [15]. This neighbourhood program matches volunteers with people in the area who need help clearing snow from their driveways or walkways. It is targetted at those who want to live at home safely and as independently as possible could be made difficult if they had to move snow themselves. 

The city instituted multiple programs amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns to ensure that those most vulnerable and stuck at home can still communicate with others. The city recognized seniors who socialized in public settings like restaurants and community centres were alone at home due to the pandemic lockdown and social distancing measures put in place. 

Before Christmas, a program was instituted to allow seniors to connect over the phone [16] during the holiday season. The city, alongside Quinte West Community Health Centre, Quinte West Public Library, recognized that Zoom or other forms of online meeting are not always applicable when it comes to the cities’ older adults because they may not feel as comfortable using technology like that.

This initiative allowed those who do not own a computer or have access to the Internet to be still able to contact others who may be in the same situation and do so safely. They have carried the program into the new year, and it takes place every Wednesday. 

Belleville and area seniors also have programs like the 50+ speaker series for those looking to listen to an interesting and informative speaker, ask questions and socialize virtually with others on the last Monday of the month at 11:30 a.m. 

The city also has two Zoom programs for those that are comfortable with the technology. They offer a 30-minute relaxation and meditation session that runs every Friday at 11:00 a.m. There is a learn–and–create series Thursday’s from 1:00-2:00 p.m., where those registered will create a new “masterpiece” each week.

For those who can no longer live at home or require more assistance or stability in their housing, the Quinte region currently has 14 long-term care homes and 17 retirement homes. 

The two terms are often used in place of one another, but they mean two very different things.
A long-term care home sometimes called a nursing home, is where seniors can live and receive help with their daily activities, such as eating or bathing. Long-term care homes also provide 24-hour nursing and personal care and therefore are best suited for people who have difficulty directing their own care.

Whereas a retirement home is a privately paid residence for seniors who can choose their own care. This means that unlike long-term care homes, retirement homes are best suited for any individuals who want an independent lifestyle but might still need a bit more support with their daily activities. Retirement homes provide a safe, comfortable, home-like environment.

The City of Belleville’s planning advisory committee received a report in 2019 that by 2041, projections suggest nearly a quarter of the city’s population will be 75 years of age or older.

The city and area will need to continue to adapt as the current population continues to age and requires more assistance.