Should you go or can you stay?

If retired farmers want to remain on the farm as long as they can, factors such as safety, convenience and accessibility to health care will play a role in determining just how long that will be.

Canada’s publicly funded health care system is made up of health insurance plans administered on a provincial or territorial basis within federally determined guidelines.

However, if you live on a farm, especially a remote farm, receiving services such as home care be-comes a bit more challenging.

“The Ministry of Health provides global funding to regional health authorities for the delivery of health programs and services,” says Tyler McMurchy, a senior media relations consultant with the Sask-atchewan health ministry.

“Each health region is responsible for the distribution and mix of its health services, including home care. Some regions offer home care services to those living on farms. Services vary between regions and can also vary according to location within the regions.”

He says these services are based on assessed need of the clients. Each region prioritizes those with the greatest need first.

“They use risk factors to determine the urgency of the service and may consider the proximity of the farm to the centre where the home care service provider is located, among other factors.”

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Sandy Weseen, director of home care for the Kelsey Trail health region in northeastern Saskatchewan, says Meals on Wheels are usually prepared at a central location such as a hospital, care home or restaurant and delivered by volunteers.

It’s up to volunteers whether they deliver to farms, she adds.

Precooked, healthy re-heatable meals are available at grocery stores if Meals on Wheels isn’t available in rural areas, which she said wasn’t the case when the program was first put into place.

Home care provides medical services to seniors to allow them to remain in their homes. Each home care office has a treatment room.

Equal service to farm homes is not always possible if patients can’t get to these sites. Again, it comes down to money.

“If treatment is needed more than three times a week, it is truly a challenge, because we only have so many staff and so many dollars,” Weseen says.

Personal care required on a daily basis is even more of a challenge.

“Sometimes we can contract from another health region if the area is along the boundary,” she says.

“Due to the time involved to get there, this is less expensive than sending someone out.”

Another option is to hire privately, but few private health-care workers are available, and they may lack the same level of training.

“I wish I could say it’s all rosy and it’s all possible, but it’s very difficult,” she says.

“When people live two miles from town, it’s very different than if they live 20 miles from town.”

Housework is usually not offered except if one spouse is the caregiver for the other. In that case, a home care worker will come to the house, spend time with the client while the spouse has some respite time and if possible do housework while there.

Each region is managed by its own health authority, but Weseen believes other Saskatchewan health regions follow similar guidelines.

Gail Scala, director of communication for the Central East Community Care Access Centre, which serves the area east of Toronto and has a mix of urban and farm dwellings, said access centres in Ontario will contract jobs to organizations such as the Victorian Order of Nurses if they can’t serve a remote farm.

The centres work with other community agencies that provide services such as Meals on Wheels.

“We are not responsible for Meals on Wheels, et cetera,” says Scala.

“We work with them. If they, for instance, do not have volunteers available, they may not be able to provide these services.”

Transportation to medical appointments in the nearest town or to a larger centre can also be a problem for people on farms.

Grocery delivery services are a reality in cities. Local co-ops and other grocers often deliver in small towns on orders over a set minimum amount. But to the farm? Maybe not.

Amazon, the online retail giant, carries a line of groceries, and it delivers, but a customer must have a land address to receive delivery. Rural people in Saskatchewan and some other provinces generally have post office boxes in town.

HelloFresh is an international company that delivers fresh groceries that are tailored to recipes included in the package.

Its Canadian presence is only in Ontario, covering the area south of the Ottawa River, but it has plans to expand. In Ontario, it does deliver to farms.

Services such as landscaping and snow removal could become more popular as baby boomers opt to stay on the farm but cut back on outdoor chores.

However, Neal Blacklaws, owner of Mr. Tree in Tisdale, Sask., says he hasn’t seen an increase in the last few years of retired farmers requesting his landscaping services.

“Most of the work I do is for young farmers establishing or renovating a yard,” he says.

“The retired farmers move to town.”

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