Home care client grieves loss of familiar faces

Changes to Alberta's home care system are having a devastating impact on clients who can no longer see the workers they've come to see as family over the years
Clients are having to cope with never seeing the workers they've become close to over the years 2:17

Changes to Alberta’s home care system are having a devastating impact on clients who can no longer see the workers they’ve come to see as family over the years.

"I cried," said Ralph Leibo, an Edmonton home care client with cerebral palsy.  "It hurt."

When his file was switched to CBI Home Health, Leibo had to say farewell to the three home care workers that helped him with personal tasks like shaving each day over the past ten years.

The loss has been further compounded by their replacements who he finds don’t always know what to do, including a worker who didn’t know how to tie his shoes

"She's never tied shoes, that includes her own shoes," he said. "She's a good person but I don’t know."

The switch in home care providers is part of a recent effort by Alberta Health Services to reduce the number of private contractors in a bid to make the system more efficient.

But the transition hasn’t gone well and stories like Leibo’s are not unique.

Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, has heard complaints from clients and care workers.

She believes the government didn’t give sufficient thought to how the changes would roll out.

"It wasn't done with the people that were receiving care in mind," she said.

"It was done solely by people that don't have to look at those people, that don't have to go into those homes to provide services."

CBI Home Health acknowledges that the changes have been stressful and says it wants to hear about any problems.

Liebo plans to discuss his experience in a meeting next week with a supervisor. In the meantime, he is trying to cope with the change that has profoundly altered his daily life.

"I feel like a family member had moved away or somebody passed away," he said. "It's really hard now everyday waking up and seeing different faces and it's just not the same."


With files from the CBC's Kim Trynacity