Nova Scotia

Help not always there when you need it, says Halifax home-care client

Andrew Jantzen, a home-care client in Halifax, says the system in Nova Scotia isn't working and he's calling on the province to put more money toward paying home-care workers.

Andrew Jantzen calling for more funding for province's home-care system

Andrew Jantzen has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition that makes it difficult to use his hands. (Andrew Jantzen)

Andrew Jantzen says there are times he's had to scramble to find a friend or stranger to help with basic tasks because a home-care worker hasn't shown up. 

Since the pandemic arrived in Nova Scotia, the Halifax resident and home-care client said it's not unusual for staff to leave appointments early or cancel at the last minute.

Jantzen has a connective tissue disorder that makes moving his hands and legs difficult. He uses a wheelchair and needs extra help on a regular basis with eating, sleeping and getting set up for work.

"If I just accept that I have no one in the morning then I won't be able to get out of bed and I won't be able to get breakfast or get my meds, anything like that, so what I've had to do through the pandemic is find people to step in and help," Jantzen told CBC's Mainstreet on Monday.

Jantzen spoke with CBC News in April about how his cancelled home-care appointments made him feel like a "home-care castaway." He said the continuing-care system in Nova Scotia isn't working and he's calling on the province to put more money toward paying home-care workers.

"If there was more funding available, that would be an easy fix to making this program also work a little bit better," he said. 

Jantzen used to be a client with Northwood and is now set up with Bayshore Home Health through Nova Scotia Continuing Care. He said while some things have improved in recent months, his care can still be inconsistent. 

"It just keeps changing. Like I might have a month that things seem to be more consistent and there's not as many unfilled spots and times when people just don't show up," said Jantzen. "And then I'll have a period of time where it's two weeks and every morning there's no one."

Bayshore Home Health responds

Angel Griffin, area director for Bayshore Home Health, said she can't comment on personal medical care issues due to client confidentiality. 

"In terms of professional care and our service we can let you know that we have stepped in to assist this client. Our team is extremely professional, on time, and respectful. That said, further to our code of ethics, we also cannot allow any of our team to be disrespected, harassed nor bullied," Griffin wrote in an email to CBC News.

Jantzen said he didn't have a comment to Bayshore's statement.

Griffin said the organization provides home-care staff only when the main contracted providers, such as Northwood, are unable to do so and directed questions to Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness.

A spokesperson for the department said it also can't comment on individual cases. 

"If a person has concerns with the care they are receiving they should talk to their care coordinator. Government pays only for services that are provided," Marla MacInnis wrote in an email.

'A huge barrier for me'

Jantzen, who is young and likes his independence, said he's been told he can leave behind the province's continuing-care system and hire home-care workers on his own.

But that's an option that comes with its own challenges.

"It's kind of set up in a way that assumes that every person with a disability is dependent on somebody so that there's going to be somebody who is there who can take that on and help you with the management, and that's a huge barrier for me. I don't have family out here," he said.

Jantzen said there are also days when he's battling fatigue, nausea and chronic pain, which makes doing even simple tasks a challenge. 

"Making sure that my schedule is set up if somebody cancelled and I am not well, that would be difficult for me," he said.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet