New Program Improves Seniors’ Access to Wheelchairs

June 18, 2013

A new provincial program will help hundreds more low-income seniors get the support they need to stay in their homes and communities longer.

The province is developing a Seniors Community Wheelchair Loan Program to ensure seniors with mobility issues have better and more affordable access to wheelchairs, Premier Darrell Dexter announced today, June 18.

The program is expected to start in September.

“We know that many seniors want to live independently for as long as possible,” said Premier Dexter. “Until now, low-income seniors who needed a wheelchair couldn’t get help from the province unless they were living in a long-term care facility. That wasn’t acceptable.

“Seniors who want to stay in their homes and communities deserve to be able to live well at home. In many cases, they just need a little extra support to do that. Programs like this one give seniors options to live their lives independently, and with dignity.”

The program targets low-income seniors 65 or older. Applicants need to have been assessed by a health-care provider in the district health authority and found to need a wheelchair for basic daily activities and to remain in their homes.

The program has a $1.4 million annual budget and is expected to benefit as many as 300 seniors in its first year. A request for proposal will be posted Wednesday, on the tenders website.

Ralph Ferguson, a senior from the Pictou area and a commissioner of the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, applauded the program.

“This will be enormously helpful to Nova Scotia seniors living on fixed incomes,” said Mr. Ferguson. “I am pleased that seniors who need it, will now get help to access the often costly wheelchairs they need to live active, healthy lives in our communities.”

In 2012, the province invested $22 million in home and community care improvements to ensure seniors, Nova Scotians living with disabilities, and their families, are getting the care and support they need. Part of that investment was a commitment to address mobility issues for low-income seniors.

“Government is working hard to make home care more affordable, to provide better support for caregivers, and to strengthen the community solutions available to seniors and their families,” said Premier Dexter. “Our goal is to maximize people’s independence and their ability to participate in all aspects of life.”

Some of the improvements for persons with disabilities and seniors brought in last year include:

— raising the low-income threshold for the caregiver benefit from $18,785 to $22,003 so more people qualify for the $400 monthly benefit
— expanding the Supportive Care Program by removing the 40 hour/month cap on service and the need to be a low-income senior
— expanding the number of people who would qualify for the Personal Alert Program to help them if they live alone and have a history of falls
— improving the property tax rebate for eligible seniors to help thousands more who remain in their homes
— providing additional funding to Caregivers Nova Scotia to provide more support services for caregivers across the province;
— increasing the amount spouses staying at home can keep of their combined income when their partner goes into long-term care
— providing funding to the district health authorities to add more supports and services like transportation and yard work to help more seniors stay at home longer
— raising the home care income threshold to $22,003 so more seniors are eligible.

Information about these programs and other services, including nursing, specialized equipment, and long-term care, can be found at www.gov.ns.ca/health/ccs . For more information call 1-800-225-7225.