Ask most elderly folks how they want to spend their golden years, and few will tell you they want to go into a nursing home. Today, many people look forward to living in their own homes much later in life, enjoying the environment they’ve become accustomed to and maintaining a normal routine. One Canadian company that’s helping people stay healthy as they age is Extendicare, a long-term care and home health-care services provider that offers a range of assisted-living solutions.
Paul Tuttle, president, says, “A shift is taking place, away from institutions and into community care across the country.” And while the government often sees this transition as a way to save money, Tuttle says that most people welcome the opportunity to have more choices about their living arrangements in their later years.
Tuttle says that most people may not be “banging down the door, anxious to get into a nursing home,” but even with top-level health care, not everyone is able to remain in their homes as long as they would like. “There are a lot of people who just can’t be cared for in the community,” he says.
Issues range from health needs to behavioural con-cerns, and each brings its own set of care requirements. But the long-term-care home of 20 years ago bears little resemblance to today’s care home. Where residents used to often go out on their own and participate in bus tours and other excursions, Tuttle says that most residents now are too frail for that kind of lifestyle. “It’s a totally different kind of resident we have now,” he says. “Their care requirements are much more complex. These policy changes have a cascading effect, increasing care needs at all levels as people are diverted to assisted living or home care rather than long-term-care homes.” Much of this stems from advances in health care, which allow older people to stay healthier and active longer and enter into a care home only when their needs for care significantly increase. The other drivers of increased resident complexity are policies aimed at helping people stay at home longer—therefore driving up their care needs when entering the home and requiring more frequent attention.
One of the greatest challenges of any assisted-living facility or home health-care service is ensuring that residents or clients receive the quality care they need. Extendicare is focused on being the best provider in the market. “It’s not easy to do, but we have a very robust quality department on both the nursing home and the home care side,” Tuttle says.
By the Numbers
Clients served each year
Hours of care each year
Provinces that Extendicare operates in
As the approach to health care becomes more rigourous and scientific, the ability to measure outcomes and examine those measurements for opportunities to improve care is increasingly important. That’s one area that Extendicare sees as crucial: providing the very best care for each and every patient, regardless of whether they’re in a long-term-care facility or receiving support at home.
Add in the relative scarcity of public resources available to support health care for the elderly, and Tuttle says that providing high-quality care when and where it’s needed requires careful management and an attention to detail. “Whether you’re not-for-profit or for-profit, you have to operate efficiently to sustain yourself,” he says. “We’re working within what the government is willing to invest,” he says. That means that operational efficiencies are critical to maintaining a high level of quality. Evidence-based practices that effectively and efficiently address patients’ needs, including technologies that help to streamline wound care and other services, are among the tools Extendicare has deployed to maximize the available resources.
With operations in four provinces—Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan—the team at Extendicare coordinates patient care with multiple governments. Navigating the variations within and across the provinces can sometimes be tricky. “Ontario has a pretty consistent systems for home care and nursing homes, but that’s not always the case in the other provinces,” Tuttle explains.
Local health authorities may have their own sets of rules that differ from neighbouring authorities, even within the same province. “The key focus for us in being able to respond effectively and operate efficiently in all those organizations with different rules and different expectations is to make sure that we have our own quality framework for care that meets or exceeds government expectations,” Tuttle says. The result is excellent care that makes the most of the resources available.