Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Queens County Home Support (QCHS) opened an office in Caledonia to better serve north Queens area clients.
The office is located in the former Credit Union building on Highway 8. The official opening took place September 27.
Annette Hartlen is executive director of QCHS, a non-profit, provider of home support services serving the Liverpool area since the late 1970s and funded under the Department of Health and Wellness. She says the satellite office is much-needed.
"It's very hard for people in north Queens to access services. We felt the area was very much under-serviced so we decided to open a sub-office for [various] reasons," she told LighthouseNOW, adding they want to equalize the access to support between north and south Queens.
The goal is to offer support to seniors in the community and support workers themselves. "A lot of times, if they are in-between visits, they are sitting on the side of the road waiting to go to their next client. A lot of times, they don't even have access to a washroom," said Hartlen.
QCHS currently serves about 260 clients spread throughout Region of Queens Municipality with about 70 office and in-the-field staff. According to Hartlen, they are one of the few agencies in the province that does not have a wait list and probably one of the few that can say they doubled their staffing numbers over the last three years.
She reported that they are in the midst of changing things up with the organization. They want to be more than just an agency that provides home support services, which is their key mandate under the Department of Health and Wellness. Rather, they also want to be pro-active and look at even more ways to keep seniors in their home.
"We're looking at becoming, what I like to refer to as a one-stop-shop for seniors. So, when someone calls our office, yes we can provide home supports, but we also want to look at things like an equipment loan program for things like bath seats," she said.
Meanwhile, staff have identified the need for a laundry facility. A washer and dryer have been placed in the new office, so that staff would be able to take in a client's laundry and wash and dry it for them.
Computer services, like looking up and printing off government forms, are another way they are set up to help.
The Caledonia office is now open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is staffed by workers from the Liverpool office. They hope to soon have full-time administration office staff there.
The office is a one-year pilot project to determine if the model of setting up in a small town can provide better services to the seniors in the area. The organization is open to suggestions as to more ways it can help serve the community.
Hartlen, who has been with the organization for nearly three years, is excited about the direction forward that they are taking, with the starting point being the opening of the new office.
As mandated by the province, they currently offer home support by providing meals, medication reminders, personal care, in-home respite, light housekeeping and laundry. A number of other potential services are on the horizon.
"We're looking at offering a day program in our office that people can drop their loved one off to participate in some programming and respite," explained Hartlen.
Another possibility is a rejuvenation of the "home handy person" project, where someone shovels driveways or splits wood for people in need. Hartlen would like to see this program returned and expanded to include a general contractor who could do small in-home jobs such as fixing a leaky pipe.
"We're really trying to be proactive here in Queens. Providing services in the home are not just limited to meeting functional, unmet needs," she said. "What we want to do is fill in the gaps and enhance the services for our clients."