Nova Scotia·Health Hacks

When it comes to home care, that first conversation 'is absolutely key'

Even though it can be awkward to ask for help, people seeking home-support services should be explicit about their needs, says consultant Mary Jane Hampton.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton shares her health hacks with CBC's Information Morning

Mary Jane Hampton suggests preparing a list of one's care needs and going over that list with a friend or family member before calling Nova Scotia continuing care. (Shutterstock)

This is part of a series from CBC's Information Morning where Halifax health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton discusses her "health hacks" — ways to make your experience with the health-care system better.

Asking for help can be an awkward undertaking, but health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says finding the right words are essential when it comes to calling on the support of continuing care.

"That first conversation is absolutely key. If that first conversation doesn't go well, you won't have access to the services that you should have access to."

Continuing care provides a range of services, including nursing support but also home-support services such as help with housekeeping, meal preparation and personal hygiene — "things that people need help with in order to keep living independently and safely in their home."

But while requesting home-support services may seem for some like an admission of weakness, waiting too long to seek support will only make the situation worse.

"Very often people really push that boundary and wait until things are beginning to really unravel and they find themselves in a building crisis, and that the supports that they had in place just aren't enough to keep them living safely," said Hampton.

She said part of having the right conversation about home care is knowing how to call for help, before the situation becomes a crisis.

Mary Jane Hampton is a health-care consultant in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

Another important element is having the clearest possible sense of one's needs.

Home-support services are covered by the province on a means-tested basis, but an important dimension of this, Hampton said, is that home care will not replicate services that are otherwise provided, either by another agency or a family member.

"Where people shoot themselves in the foot is in overstating what their family can do [or] overstating what they can do, so the home-care assessor doesn't hear there's a gap."

While it can be difficult to frankly discuss one's needs, Hampton said that it's crucial that people are explicit in describing the gaps in their supports.

"Before you even pick up the phone to talk to continuing care, you need to make a list … of the things that you need help with."

Hampton said when talking to continuing care, it's also important to make clear that the supports are necessary from a safety perspective. 
 
People can even benefit from practising that conversation with friends or family members who are familiar with their situation.

"So that you are really being clear in explaining what the gaps are in the support that you have, in order to be able to live safely in your home."

Caregiver burnout an issue

The individuals who need support aren't the only ones who should be confident asking for help, said Hampton. 

"There's a really important other part of this story, which is the real issue of caregiver burnout."

Caregivers also need to keep in mind the risks of exhausting themselves, Hampton said, and the importance of being clear about what they need. 

"The bottom line is, when you need the help, before it becomes a crisis, as for it."

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