At least two area seniors see themselves reducing, or possibly ending, the hours they have with Timiskaming Home Support light housekeeping helping in their homes.
They think there are other low-income seniors or disabled people who will be forced to make the same decision because of financial considerations.
One area resident (The Speaker agreed not to publish her name for privacy concerns) said she lives on a pension in social housing, and was on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) until she turned 65.
Last year ODSP stopped providing coverage for supplies she needs and she now must pay those expenses out of her pension, she explained in an interview in her small one-bedroom apartment.
“It gets expensive,” she said in an in-person interview.
She began receiving Home Support after she moved to her current location.
The amount clients pay for those services is based on their income.
“When I started off I didn’t have to pay a penny,” the senior said.
However, she began to be billed about one or two years after she started using the service. At first she was being billed $2 an hour for the help, then a year later she was being billed $5 an hour. She reduced the hours she used the service, but the amount climbed again to $5.50 an hour.
She then dropped the hours she used even further.
However, increases in pension payments provided by the government meant that she rose into a higher tax bracket. Her income is just over $19,000 annually, she said.
Timiskaming Home Support (THS) has advised clients that they are doubling the amounts billed to them for light housekeeping services.
THS chief executive officer Caroline Morin has told The Speaker that the funding model has not changed, nor has the eligibility criteria changed for clients to receive services.
But she said THS received a two per cent increase in funding in June 2022 and that is not keeping up with the rising cost of materials used for the services.
“The price increase is based on the actual cost of running those programs,” she said. “The funding is not keeping up.”
The new amounts take effect February 1, and Home Support says it has made the decision due to rising costs of supplies and also to provide competitive wages for its staff.
THS has clients sorted into three income brackets to determine the amount they will be billed for light housekeeping services. The increase in pension amounts put the senior in a higher tax bracket meaning she was being billed $15.75 an hour effective January 1. However, in January, clients received a letter from Timiskaming Home Support stating the amounts have doubled. The client now will have to pay $31.50 an hour effective February 1.
With a visitor coming for the interview, the client, with breathing and pain problems, undertook cleaning of the main area of her small apartment the day before.
“I sort of started in my kitchen yesterday,” she said, “and that took me the whole bloody day because I can (only) do so much and then I have to take a break…. I wanted to do a lot more but it takes time for me.”
Another area resident, who also asked not to be named for this story, said she was paying $5 an hour when she originally started using the service about five years ago. She now pays $15.75, she said, and that amount will be increasing to $31.50 an hour.
“I’m two hours every week and so that would be $240 a month now. I make less than $15,000 a year.”
The client, who has vision problems, said she will be reducing the service she receives to one hour a week.
“It’s a big issue for me because I can’t see to do my dishes, or anything really.”
She commented that the provincial government has said they want people to stay in their homes, but the government will not adequately fund the service.
“There are a lot of seniors and people with disabilities who are suffering because of this. It’s a big issue,” she said.
By Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 25, 2023 at 07:24