Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
What are home-based care services?

Home care is a group of health care services provided to a person in his or her home. Home-based services aim to enable people with health problems (e.g., acute illnesses, long- term disabilities, and/or people who are recovering from illness or surgery) to live as well and as independently as possible in their own homes and communities.

In this Resource Guide, home-based services include specialized care provided by health care providers (e.g., community health workers - formerly known as home support workers - nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, lab technicians, etc.), as well as care focusing on personal hygiene and/or activities of daily living. Included in this section is a discussion of respite care: home or community-based care that is designed to provide family caregivers with a break from the demands of caregiving.

In-home support services that do not primarily have a health focus are discussed in Section 7 (Community-based Support Services).

Over the past few decades, the demand for home care has mushroomed across Canada. Increasingly, people are receiving care at home that they used to receive in hospitals; more and more treatments are being provided on an out-patient basis; and often acute-care stays are being shortened, in combination with in- home, post-hospital therapies and care.

At the same time, it is worth noting that home care is not covered under the Canada Health Act. This means that there is no uniformity in home care service, or in the quality of the service. Moreover, each local or regional health authority has its own definition of home care, its own array of services, its own set of criteria for eligibility, and its own funding guidelines for the delivery of services. Home care has been described as a patchwork quilt of services, wherein a key sector of the workers - home support workers (also known as community health workers) - receive varying degrees of training, sometimes earn little more than minimum wage and do not qualify for benefits, and yet are being asked to perform increasingly complex tasks.

Did you know?

Other interesting facts about home care in Canada2:

  • Nearly one million Canadians (3 percent of the population) received home care services from provincial and territorial programs in 1999-2000.
  • The most common uses for homecare are for short-term rehabilitation and elder care.
  • Nearly half of all home care clients are under 65 - adults and children with chronic disabilities and patients discharged early from hospitals.
  • Nearly half of all Canadians with dementia are cared for at home, by family or friends.
  • More than half of Canadians who say they need help with activities of daily living report they are not receiving any home care.
  • Home care accounts for only 4 percent of public spending on health in Canada.

Home-based services aim to help people with long-term health problems to live as well and as independently as possible, in their own homes and communities.

1 This sub-section has been adapted from: How to Care: Home Care
2. Source: How to Care: Home Care – Things You Should Know