Home care recipients fear Health Services to ruin program

“First of all they’re doing a good job and if somebody’s doing a good job why go to an outside agency” Dorothy Ungstad.

If Ponoka FCSS were to lose its home care contract, there’s a fear among those needing its services, and their family members, that the lives of seniors in Ponoka could change in unwanted ways.

David Spink and his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, have both been under the care of FCSS’s home care program.

In 2003, Spink’s wife was diagnosed and as the couple aged, Spink wasn’t able to provide all the care she needed. Once a week, a health nurse would come into their home to help with bathing and house cleaning was every two weeks.

Three years ago, Spink broke his ankle, leaving him with 10 pins and immobility. “I was kind of very, very confined to the chesterfield. The help was a blessing to me at that time.”

Spink says the level of services FCSS offers is excellent and has allowed him his independence as an 81-year- old. If the contract was to go elsewhere, he believes that may change. “I’d feel very disheartened. It would take away a lot of my freedom.”

“I’m very supportive of what is required in a town. We’ve lost too much already,” he added in support of keeping the contract local. Spink was referring to the empty buildings that litter Ponoka’s downtown core.

If Spink was ever given the chance to speak with Alberta Health Services, he says he would want to know how many people would be affected if the contract was awarded to a for-profit organization. “If you’ve got 60 or 70 people, that could be a big issue.”

“I know it would have a big effect on a lot of people who are dependent upon FCSS . . . It may mean their own home would not necessarily be available to them,” he added.

Spink says he was recently speaking with a friend about FCSS’s situation who agreed with his view. “There isn’t anything better. I hope we don’t lose them.”

Dorothy Ungstad, a now retired teacher, is well acquainted with FCSS’s home care program, as her husband, mother and two sisters-in-law all received care, totaling a combined 24 years.

Her husband suffered a stroke not long after Ungstad’s mother came to live with her.

“I remember at work, saying to one of the ladies, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do,’” said Ungstad. She was encouraged to call FCSS.

With Ungstad teaching, her husband in Edmonton at the hospital, it was home care who aided the mother. Once back home, her husband also received home and respite care four times a week, four hours each time.

Ungstad feels if FCSS was to lose the contract, the community and home care clients would lose a service that not only performs well, but also something only small towns can provide at a personal level.

“The advantage of having the contract in Ponoka and Rimbey is the people that they hire know the community, they know the residents that are receiving help. They provide that personal care and touch,” said Ungstad.

She recalls one of her husband’s homecare workers was a younger male who would take her husband, a farmer, to his own farm where they’d talk trucks and cattle. “It’s the little things like that.”

With larger, for-profit organizations, Ungstad believes stricter rules with beat out the personal touch that comes with FCSS.

“I think there’s also a really good relationship between FCSS and the health care centre home care nurses. First of all, they’re doing a good job and it somebody’s doing a good job, why go to an outside agency, “said Ungstad.

During her first year in contact with FCSS home care, Ungstad said she wouldn’t have been able to work if it wasn’t for them. She adds FCSS home care isn’t only serving the community’s seniors. She knows of a young mother whose husband also needed to work, and with complications after the birth of a second child, home care was their crutch.

Despite minor hiccups in service that come with staff illnesses and inevitable winter storms, Ungstad says she’s 100 per cent happy with FCSS and allowing a non-local organization to handle the services is simply inviting trouble, be it a decrease in services due to less pay or familiarity or problems arising from distance and Alberta weather that can keep care providers away.