October marks Community Support Month in Ontario, a dedicated time to recognize and celebrate the essential contributions of community-based care services, which provide vital support to nearly one million Ontarians annually (OCSA, n.d.). These services, delivered by organizations and individuals, empower and enhance opportunities for older adults to maintain autonomy and live interdependently in their own homes and communities.
Community-based care models play a vital role in Canada's healthcare infrastructure, providing coordinated and integrated care in diverse community settings (McMaster University, 2022). Their success is primarily attributed to an underlying commitment to supporting the preference of aging in place (Pace, n.d.) and reducing costs in other parts of the healthcare system (Williams et al., 2016). As Ontario's population ages, the significance of community support services will continue to grow (Pace, n.d.). These services are fundamentally designed to address the health-related, social, and personal care needs of older adults and people with disabilities within their communities (McMaster University, 2022). Moreover, this model encompasses customized support mechanisms for paid and unpaid caregivers, including educational sessions, peer support groups, and training initiatives. These efforts are directed at improving caregiver effectiveness and establishing robust support networks for older adults, fostering a comprehensive well-being approach.
Notable community-based care initiatives encompass supportive housing, meal delivery programs, older adult day programs, medical transportation services, caregiver support networks, hospice care, and palliative care services (Williams et al., 2016; OCSA, n.d.). Collectively, these provisions create an environment that promotes independent living and fosters strong community connections for older adults, their families, and caregivers. Importantly, these initiatives offer alternatives to institutionalized care systems, which can sometimes create a disconnect between older adults and their communities due to comprising a more compartmentalized nature (Integrity Inc., 2015). Moreover, it focuses less on autonomous decision-making, personal routines, social networks, and cultural connections, prioritizing organizational schedules over individual preferences (Integrity Inc., 2015). While the suitability of care models may vary depending on individual needs, achieving a balance and providing choices is crucial for upholding personal empowerment and autonomy regardless of the setting (McMaster University, 2022). Hence, a collective effort is required to recognize the significance of integrating and upholding person-first approaches grounded in community engagement (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017).
At the heart of community-based service models are various care workers, including personal support workers, family caregivers, nurses, front-line recreational staff, social workers, and social service workers. These individuals provide direct service, advocating for improved quality of care (McMaster University, 2022) and collaboration, addressing older adults' often-overlooked needs and desires. Community Support Month celebrates their dedication, acknowledges their challenges, and commits to eliminating the precarious nature of care work, focusing on dignity wellness, and prioritizing the needs of individuals, including caregivers.
You may be wondering how you can commemorate Community Support Month this year. Demonstrating support can take various forms, such as expressing gratitude to paid caregivers directly involved with your family's care, acknowledging and appreciating your role as a caregiver, contributing to community-based care organizations in your local area, and, notably, recognizing the efforts of frontline team members within your organization. Moreover, a crucial aspect of support involves raising awareness by disseminating articles, information, and research from long-term care (LTC) and other support-based organizations within your community.
Happy Community Support Month from Family Councils Ontario!
Alzheimer’s Association. (2017). Person centered care in nursing homes and assisted living.
Integrity Inc. (2015, September 30). 3 major benefits of community based services vs. institutional care. https://www.integrityinc.org/3-major-benefits-of-community-based-
McMaster University. (2022). Rapid synthesis. Identifying community-based models to enable older adults to live independently . https://www.mcmasterforum.org/docs/default
Ontario Community Support Association (n.d.). Community support month.
Pace. (n.d.). Join the celebration – October is community support month. https://www.pace-
Williams, A. P., Lum, J., Morton-Change, F., Kuluski, K., Peckham, A., Warrick, N., & Ying, A.
(2016). Integrating long-term care into a community-based continuum: Shifting from
“beds” to “places.” Institute for Research on Public Policy, 59, 1-45. https://irpp.org/wp-