Elder Care in Ontario is Broken, and Here’s One Way We Can Fix It

GUELPH, Ontario, May 12, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over the past few months, as more and more horror stories about our failed long term care homes have arose, one innovative group has been busy developing a solution; a Personal Support Worker (PSW)-owned home care co-operative in the Peterborough and Durham regions.

Dozens of reports have been filed over the last three decades calling for much needed improvements to Ontario’s long term care homes, including two more added just last month: the Auditor General’s and Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission.

With all of the focus on long term care homes, however, we are still missing a very important solution that is preferred by most people: aging at home. “Most people would much rather age at home than be moved to a long-term care home, but we simply don’t provide adequate home care services to allow this to happen,” says Russ Christianson, a Co-op Developer who has helped launch over 200 co-operatives in his over three-decade long career.

A proven way to address the root causes of undervaluing our elders and their caregivers is to provide home care services through PSW-owned, not-for-profit co-operatives. And the Home Care Workers’ Co-operative hopes to pave the way for others to follow across the province.

“The root of our problems with long-term care is that we don’t value our elders or their caregivers. The way we are warehousing older people in large, institutional long-term care homes is inhumane, and the pandemic has laid this bare. And, the way we treat PSWs – with low wages, precarious employment and little say in their working conditions – feels like a throwback to Charles Dickens’ time,” adds Christianson.

The best way to provide long-term care is to create warmer, smaller households focused on relationships and the individual interests of residents - and this is exactly what a robust home care service can provide.

The caregiver-owned co-operative will provide a living wage ($21/ hour plus benefits), 7 days of paid sick leave, travel time and mileage, and will work to ensure the PSWs have regular hours. The co-op will also ensure PSWs build caring relationships with their clients over time by seeing the same clients consistently.

The cost to the home care client is $35 per hour. For most people, a few hours a week is all they will need, so the cost could be as low as $210 per week per client. The lowest current rate for long term care is $435 a week for a shared room, or $808 for a private room.1 That is two to four times the cost of home care.

Home care is not always the right solution; sometimes a long-term care bed or a hospital bed is required for those who are unable to care for themselves. Nevertheless, home care could be the solution for many more people and could save our governments millions of dollars that they could then spend on creating better living conditions and innovative models in long term care homes.

As a founding member of the not-for-profit Home Care Workers’ Co-operative, Danielle Turpin is a PSW with fifteen years of experience in our health system. She left her last employer (a large long term care home) after three years, because even when she spoke out on behalf of her clients, the necessary changes in care were not implemented.

“I promised myself that I would work to create a home care model where our workers and clients are top priority, not profits, CEOs and shareholders. PSWs have been put on the back burner too long. With Home Care Workers’ Co-operative, PSWs will have a real voice in their work environment, and that gives workers power to make positive changes with their clients, communities and in healthcare in general,” says Turpin.

While providing a better working life for PSWs, the co-op also provides clients the ability to age at home with a better quality of life. This personalized approach to quality care extends beyond the clients by valuing PSWs as employee-owners. A good home care system requires us to bring the respect and value back to the workers. By taking care of our workers, they can confidently and compassionately take care of our loved ones, the job they love to do.


Contact Russ Christianson at 705-653-0527 or at russ.c@xplornet.com.

Russ Christianson (M.I.R., B. Comm.) is a co-op developer who has helped over two hundred co-operative enterprises launch in Ontario over the past thirty years. Danielle Turpin is a PSW with over fifteen years of experience in Ontario, and is a founder of Home Care Workers’ Co-operative Inc., a not-for-profit enterprise owned by its employees.


1 Ontario Government website, https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-help-paying-long-term-care

ABOUT THE ONTARIO CO-OPERATIVE ASSOCIATION (OCA): Co-operatives are a different kind of business model that are driven by people, planet and profit. OCA supports, develops, educates and advocates for Ontario’s 1,500+ co-operative businesses. We exist to strengthen and unite the co-operative movement and we believe that co-operatives are the solution to creating stronger communities, which help to build a better world. Visit us at http://www.ontario.coop for more information.