FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government announced the details of its Home First strategy today which will see $7.2 million invested during the first year of the plan.  

The innovative programs and services of the strategy will help seniors remain safely in their homes longer.

"Helping keep seniors at home longer means optimizing the entire continuum of care to ensure the system is delivering effective support," said Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé.  "It is essential that seniors receive the highest quality of care and the necessary programs and services to help achieve that goal."

Home First is a three-year plan to enhance healthy aging and care in New Brunswick. It will help seniors remain in their homes for as long as possible so they can continue to live independently and be active members of their community.

To ensure seniors can remain in their homes, approximately $1.6 million will be invested in developing and delivering a senior's health, well-being and home safety assessment.  

Many seniors have made the decision to leave their homes because they are unable to afford minor repairs and adaptions to make their households safe. The home safety assessment will provide a home consultation to assess seniors' needs and provide those eligible with financial assistance for small in-home repairs. This initiative will also assess caregiver needs and provide relief care to caregivers by expanding the availability of respite spaces in day centres.

Investments totaling more than $1 million are being made to support the growth of the home support sector. Benefits include improved training for workers, recruitment and retention strategies, and the implementation of a new neighbourhood-based model of home support delivery that will provide more coordinated services for seniors and reduce travel time for home support workers.

Through Home First, the provincial government will continue to explore opportunities to build on programs such as Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour's Workplace Essential Skills Program and/or the Canada-New Brunswick Job Grant to support employees from the senior care sector to successfully attain certification to work in the field.  While still under development, the Canada-New Brunswick Job Grant will be open to all businesses in the province using a regional application process.

An investment of $250,000 is being used to conduct a special care home sector study. It will identify best practices and an enhanced role for special care homes to provide alternate models of community-based care, such as rehabilitation, convalescence, relief care and expanded case management functions.  This will result in some facilities being equipped to provide a higher level of individualized care than is currently being offered.    

Another $215,000 will be provided to the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association to support a workplace skills training initiative for special care home employees.  This will provide workers with access to ongoing training and development opportunities.  

To help seniors access primary health care, wellness and social services close to their home, a new integrated model of senior care will be developed that will fill the need between home-based care and residential care.  

Broadening the range of care and support services available to seniors in the community will help to meet varying needs, allowing more seniors to maintain health and independence. The new model of integrated care will be designed to support ongoing independence by offering daily access to health care, personal support and respite services in a single environment, such as a clinic or community centre.  

The departments of Social Development and Health will invest $1.6 million and $605,000, respectively, to enhance the rapid rehabilitation services for seniors. These enhancements will assist seniors with timely access to community-based rehabilitation services to ensure they recover from illness and injury and return home faster following a hospital stay.

While the majority of seniors will be able to age at home, others will need to be cared for in a nursing home.

Home First includes an initiative to modernize the nursing home system to meet the changing needs of residents. Through a partnership between FacilicorpNB, New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and iTacit Inc., software will be provided to nursing homes to assist in the recruitment and management of human resources.

The software, developed by New Brunswick based iTacit, provides a platform to support professional development and ongoing training of employees, thereby assuring a competent and trained workforce to provide high quality care.

In the future, this opportunity will be extended to home support agencies, special care homes and specialized care bed operators.

All nursing homes will be provided with Resident Assessment Instrument - Minimum Data Set, a computerized clinical tool,  o enhance the assessment of individuals, generate data on which effective resident care plans can be developed and provide quality, comprehensive data for province-wide benchmarking, policy development and risk management. This program will be rolled-out over a three year period.

Active living and physical activity are paramount to seniors' health and well-being. Through an investment of $175,000, the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities will expand its Wellness Movement campaign to seniors.

Making cities and communities age-friendly is an effective approach to the challenges of the aging demographic and has additional benefits in improving infrastructure, promoting social inclusion, providing enhanced communication and education opportunities as well as promoting community-based wellness and active living.

An approach to encourage age-friendly communities will be developed by the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities. Based on the criteria developed by the World Health Organization, this initiative will involve working in collaboration with municipal governments and stakeholders to encourage and support communities in becoming age-friendly.

"Together, we are moving New Brunswick forward," said Dubé.  "We must all be committed to the initiatives outlined in Home First if our vision of enabling seniors to live in their homes for as long as possible is to be realized."