House Calls program helps seniors live independently at home

House Calls, a program developed to meet the growing demands of an aging population, provides at-home care for seniors in Toronto who are unable to get to a doctor.

Organization says program offering home visits by doctors saves millions in hospital costs

This group of doctors visit seniors at home who are unable to get to a clinic. 4:52

At 89, living at home without support would be impossible for Margaret Greaves. She can barely walk, which makes getting to a doctor's office extremely difficult. However, thanks to a monthly visit from House Calls, she is able to keep her independence.

"She could be anybody's grandmother," says Clinical Director Dr. Mark Nowaczynski, "and everybody's grandmother should have access to the opportunity to live where they want to live and where they're going to be healthiest and happiest."

House Calls is a program that provides at-home care for seniors in Toronto who are unable to get to a doctor. There are four doctors and they see up to eight patients a day.

The House Calls program was developed to meet the growing demands of an aging population. Approximately 100,000 older Canadians are housebound and unable to get to a doctor. In the next 20 years that number is expected to climb to 400,000.

Dr. Mark Nowaczynski (right) says Toronto's HouseCalls program is under-funded, despite the fact that Dr. Samir Sinha (left) says there is "compelling data this actually saves money" for the province's health care system by allowing seniors to remain at home rather than occupying hospital beds. (CBC)
Although the demand is there, House Calls is unable to see as many patients as its organizers would like.

"What breaks my heart is that I come across patients who are not within the region," Dr. Samir Sinha says. "This program covers 23 postal codes in Toronto. It should cover every postal code."

Financial constraints are preventing House Calls from expanding. It operates through a non-profit agency on a shoestring budget.

"We were funded in 2009 to provide care to 130 patients a year. On the same budget we have grown to serve 500 patients per year — we are simply under-funded," says Nowaczynski.

The lack of funding is frustrating, because the organization says the program saves millions in hospital costs.

"We have the compelling data this actually saves money," says Sinha.

House Calls' latest data found that among seniors enrolled into the program after a hospitalization, the rate of readmission dropped by 53 per cent. For those patients who were readmitted, the overall length of hospital stays was cut by nearly 70 per cent.

Back at Margaret Greaves' home, the doctors pack up and leave, but Greaves stays exactly where she wants to be, at home.

Watch The National's video documentary on the House Calls program at the top of this page or here.


  • This story originally reported that House Calls' data on seniors in the program showed their risk of hospitalization dropped by 55 per cent, and the overall length of hospital stays for patients who were admitted was cut by nearly 70 per cent. In fact, the data referred specifically to seniors who enrolled into the program after a hospitalization. The story has been corrected to reflect this.
    Oct 07, 2015 9:34 AM ET


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