“He was very loving toward his last few months,” Suzie Froese says of her deceased father, a former client of the Direct Client Funding (DCF) program. “He really appreciated it.”

The DCF program was set up in 2009 as an alternative to long-term care. Approved clients are given monthly funding that can be used to hire services to provide for their care needs at home rather than in a long term care (LTC) facility.

Suzie took care of her father in his final months in her parents’ home, with the help of private care providers funded by the program.

“I still have no regrets,” she says three years after her father’s passing.

Currently, the DCF program can accommodate 45 clients but only 38 are enrolled. As part of Saskatoon Health Region’s 90 Days of Innovation: Ready Every Day, the community strategies team is working with a variety of stakeholders to review the referral process to maximize current capacity and to look at expanding the program. At present, to be accepted, clients must be residents of Saskatoon, must be approved for long term care, must be in an acute care bed or long term care facility for  at least  three months, and must be 55 years of age or older.

“Supporting our clients to be cared for at home is delaying and even preventing the need for long term care,” says community strategies team lead Corey Miller. “We’re hearing more from seniors that long term care is not the choice for them. This type of program is allowing patients and their families to make decisions that allows for their care in the home, and this is what our community wants and needs.”

Program expansion may involve lowering the age limit, including rural homes within 60 kilometres of Saskatoon, and removing the limit on length of acute care or long term care stay. The team is also considering candidates in the community who are on a long term care wait list or in a personal care home and need more support to stay healthy.

“We recognize the opportunity to increase referrals by expanding the criteria and raising awareness in the community,” says Tammy Vornbrock, member of the community strategies team.

Despite not currently maximizing its capacity, the program has seen significant success since its inception. Of the 148 clients who have gone through the program, only 27 per cent are still enrolled. The remaining 73 per cent have left the program – only 26 per cent of whom have been transferred to a long term care facility. The rest have left the program due to improved health (eight per cent), death at home as preferred by clients (35 per cent) or death in acute care (26 per cent).

For those clients who do eventually transition into long term care, the program is delaying their transfer for an average of 351 days, meaning they can stay at home longer.

By expanding the program, there is also potential to reduce the number of patients in acute care, where more than 40 seniors are currently waiting for a long-term care assessment or placement.

“Many seniors in acute care no longer require the intensity of care a hospital provides, but they remain in an acute care bed because we don’t have the resources in place to safely discharge from the hospital, back into the community,” says Miller. “Expanding programs like Direct Client Funding is one solution to help us serve our clients in a new and better way.”

See more stories about Region improvements at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/ReadyEveryDay.