When Donna Fowler started searching for a homecare worker to help her with cleaning, she found it complicated to shop around by calling service agencies directly.
So Fowler, who uses a wheelchair and already has a personal support worker who tends to her five days a week, ended up using the services of a homecare brokerage.
The company helped find her the best rates possible by checking with multiple agencies at once, and was able to help her solve any issues with her support.
“I told them I’m looking for someone to help me — I'm in a wheelchair and it’s very difficult to do what has to be done around the house,” said Fowler, who lives in Toronto.
“They took my name, called the agencies they work with and I was really happy they were able to go ahead with it.”
The homecare brokerage industry is growing in Canada as people look to get the best value at a time when the cost of personal support workers is going up.
A survey commissioned by HomeEquity Bank found almost half of Canadians over the age of 55 are considering some form of homecare because of the pandemic and its effect on group care settings. However, 60 per cent of people in that demographic are worried they won’t be able to cover the cost of home care.
Vipan Nikore, co-founder of Toronto-based brokerage Homecare Hub, said COVID-19 has heavily impacted the supply of PSW’s, and clients can sometimes pay 20 to 25 per cent more for their services as a result.
“There’s been a significant decrease in supply in PSW’s and that’s because they can only work at one place,” said Nikore. “In the past you’d have PSW’s working in long-term care part-time, and then in homecare with a few patients. Now there are significant restrictions.”
Nikore compared his company to travel sites like Expedia, saying it helped people compare prices and reviews for multiple different service agencies in one location, especially in a time when finding a PSW can be difficult.
He said his company currently works with about 50 homecare agencies and enables people to pay for their services through the company’s website.
For seniors worried about the rising costs of homecare, Nikore predicts things will get better as the pandemic comes to an end.
He said the restrictions around how many facilities each PSW can work at will likely be rolled back, which will help solve some supply issues and lead to prices closer to what consumers would have been used to pre-pandemic.
However, Nikore only expects demand for homecare to rise with Canada’s aging population.
“With an aging population, there’s a natural increase in demand for services in the homecare space,” said Nikore. People are living longer with chronic diseases and we’re at capacity at many of our hospitals and systems.”
Fowler says the biggest help from a company like Homecare Hub was that they were able to step in when things weren’t working out.
Fowler said the first two cleaning staff she was paired with weren’t quite right for her. She said her brokerage was able to find someone that Fowler was happy with.
Fowler doubts the process would have been as easy if she was working directly with a support worker agency, and imagines it would have taken much longer.
"They keep tabs on you, see how you’re doing and ask if there’s anything they can do for you,” said Fowler. “They’re right on the ball.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.
Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press