Making it a well-resourced foundation of our health-care system

By Peggy Edwards, Council on Aging of Ottawa

Over 90 per cent of older people want to “age in place” in their home and community and to avoid having to go to a long-term care facility. Audrey Jacques, lead with the home and community care working group of the Council on Aging (COA) says, “We started with this fact when we researched the situation of older people living in the Ottawa region. We found that as people grow older, many face health and functional challenges which mean they need help at home to continue to live independently in the community. We also found that home care and community services are badly under-resourced in Ontario and in the Ottawa region.”

Audrey says, “Even older people with serious health issues have difficulty getting home and community care services because financial investments by the province have tended to go more to long-term care institutions and because there is a shortage of over 3,000 workers just to maintain the current level of service. It is particularly difficult to get help at home that is culturally sensitive or when English is not your first language. Older people living in rural areas are also likely to have less access to services. Home and community care services need to address the diversity of the older adult population and the needs in different areas of the city and the province.”

Home care is not always the right solution; sometimes a long-term care or   hospital bed is required. But emphasizing institutional care ignores the fact that increased client-based home and community care support services would save millions of dollars that governments could then spend on creating better living conditions and innovative models in both community living and long-term care.

The cost of home care is significantly less than providing care in a nursing home or hospital. Research shows that investing even small amounts to help seniors around the house saves our health-care system significant amounts of money. Equally important, it recognizes that older adults overwhelmingly wish to age with dignity and autonomy at home, with appropriate care and support for themselves and their families.

Home and Community Care Support Services

There are two basic types of services that help you age in place at home.

Home care includes:

  • Medical support. That encompasses support from a health professional such as a nurse, occupational therapist, dietitian or physiotherapist
  • Help with personal care such as bathing, dressing and medication management

Community support includes help with things such as:

  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Home and yard maintenance and snow removal
  • Meal preparation
  • Home visits and reducing isolation
  • Transportation to medical appointments

How to Access Services

Due to the shortage of resources, it can be difficult to get home care delivered by government agencies. Contact Home and Community Care Support Services at HCCSS Home Care. This organization will:

  • Check if you qualify for government funded services
  • Arrange a home visit for assessment
  • Contract with service providers

Your primary care doctor (if you have one) can assist in making this contact.

The Champlain Community Support Network (CCSN) is made up of more than 40 local agencies across Ottawa and Eastern Ontario that provide community support services and programs including:

  • community health and resource centres
  • seniors centres

If you are not sure where to get services, go to or call 211 Ontario. This helpline connects you to social services, programs and community support services in Ontario.

For information on city services of all types, call 311. If you cannot afford home support services, you can apply to the City of Ottawa for financial assistance at

Healthy eating is important for aging well at home. Ottawa Public Health has an excellent website called Meal Programs for Older Adults ( that provides information on at-home meal delivery/preparation services (Meals on Wheels, etc.), community meal programs, food shopping (grocery buses, delivery etc.) and community kitchens.

The COA has a workshop that provides a full scope of the information you need, entitled Aging in Place with Services and Supports.  Check the COA website or call 613-789-3577 x4 for information on upcoming workshops.

What can we do to fix the disarray in home and community care?

Recently, the Ontario government began a modernization process supported by the passage of The Convenient Care at Home Act that consolidates existing operations within Ontario Health and creates Ontario Health at Home. This organization will provide home care services until local Ontario health teams can assume responsibility for the delivery of home care.

Audrey says, “The COA and our partner organizations will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that changes in the system and new administrations are publicly accountable and transparent. We will continue to advocate for a more responsive and integrated home care system in Ontario.”

Audrey suggests that we also need to advocate support for informal caregivers (such as family members and friends) who provide 75 per cent of the daily care for older people who need help to stay at home.

“Small actions add up and can make a big difference,” says Audrey. “Volunteer if you can help with community services. Listen to older adults. Help them advocate for their needs and access appropriate services. Speak up when you see gaps in your community. It is still the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”

The COA would like to hear about your views and experiences with home and community care. Write to Peggy Edwards at


For More Information

Old Ottawa South Community Association. Your Guide to Healthy Aging in the Community (2023).

CARP. Spotlight on Home Care in Canada.

Seniors for Social Action Ontario: search “home care.”

Government of Ontario. Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care.