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Caring for seniors: Coast demographics spawn a growing industry

Caring for seniors: Coast demographics spawn a growing industry

The Sunshine Coast offers a lifestyle that appeals to young families, the middle-aged and retirees alike, but half of us here are older adults—and that’s generating a wave of new small businesses serving that segment of the population.

About 50 percent of people on the Coast are 55 years old or more, according to the 2016 census. And among those, more than 2,000 are 80 or older. No matter how many long-term care homes for seniors ultimately get built here, we will never enjoy the luxury of thousands of beds. That means most of our elderly are going to have to be looked after at home.

“It will certainly be cheaper in the long run to be able to age-in-place and have somebody come in to your home to help than it will be securing a long-term bed,” Community Resource Centre co-chair Anne Titcomb said in an interview.

“But nobody is doing a good job of reaching the over-80s, so that’s something we’re going to have to figure out how to do,” Titcomb noted.

So, what levels of care are available, how much it will cost, and who can be trusted?

The Resource Centre and its Seniors Planning Table have taken steps deal with these questions. With the help of the SC Community Foundation and the Healthcare Auxiliary, they have created a general guide called “Demystifying and Navigating Resources for Seniors.” Originally a PowerPoint presentation, it has now been put online in portable document format (PDF). One place to find it is at

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) administers a range of public health services for seniors, and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society offers its Better at Home program. Both might be “public,” but there are costs involved in most cases, on a sliding scale according to income. More information on their services is on their websites.

Still, these non-profit agencies can’t do it all, and that’s where businesses like Home Healthcare Network, Sunshine Coast Seniors Care, and Nurse Next Door—to name a few—have stepped up.

“I did not start this business to compete with Vancouver Coastal Health,” said Caroline Gagne, who began Home Healthcare Network eight years ago. “We support public health, and we complement it very well.”

One of the services provided by Gagne’s staff of 26 employees, all of them bonded and registered, is
respite care—filling in when family or other
caregivers are away.

“That’s usually not something that [VCH] can help with, but we do. We also guarantee consistency in staffing, and that is not an option with the public sector,” Gagne said.

VCH also does not do housekeeping anymore, but Gagne’s company covers that, too.

“If we’re there to help a client, whether it’s palliative or personal care, we’ll do some housekeeping at the same time,” she added. “Also, Coastal Health does some meal-prep, but it’s limited. We will spend a few hours making meals for the week for a client. If anything’s missing, we’ll get in the car and go shopping for them.”

The cost is about $32 an hour for a registered care aide. Housekeeping alone is less. Overnight charges vary. “If the staff is able to sleep, we’re not going to charge.”

By comparison, the top end of VCH’s sliding scale is $44 an hour, although help can come at no cost for those at a very low-income level.

Sunshine Coast Seniors Care is a new company, started by Donna Johansen in the summer of 2017. It’s a one-person operation right now, but she’s on the hunt for bondable employees who she can sub-contract.

“I have a small clientele. I just want to provide a good service to people who want to stay in their homes, but aren’t ready to go into long-term care,” Johansen said. “I don’t have nursing staff. I do have some on call if I need them.”

Johansen has a background in financial industry and has experience helping to fix banking and pension issues for clients

“My programs (as of April 1) start at $25 an hour, and go up to about $35, depending on what service is provided,” she said.

All the companies and agencies mentioned here, and others, have comprehensive websites. If you’re still not sure where to turn, try the Community Resource Centre on Trail Ave., near Cowrie, in Sechelt.

“There are so many options, people want one place where they can go and get help,” said Ann Titcomb. “Our motto on just about anything we have is ‘start here.’”

The Centre is open 10am-2pm Monday through Thursday, or call 604-885-4088.

– Rik Jespersen, Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Connection

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