Better at Home announces rural and remote pilot locations

The United Way’s Better at Home program has selected five communities for the rural and remote pilot project: Nakusp, Invermere, the Villages of Fraser Lake and Valemount, and Pender Island.

Nakusp, Invermere, the Villages of Fraser Lake and Valemount, and Pender Island are the five communities chosen to help Better at Home understand how best to deliver services to seniors living in rural and remote communities in B.C.  Better at Home provides non-medical support services to seniors in B.C. helping seniors live longer in their own homes while remaining connected to their community.

The program is funded by the Government of BC and managed by United Way.

If you work with seniors, provide seniors services, or have a good understanding of the local seniors services landscape, we would like to hear from you. Please contact Project Coordinator Debbie Sharp on 605-268-1300 ext. 2303 or

Better at Home is managed by United Way of the Lower Mainland, and currently runs 61 programs across British Columbia.

The ins and outs of a community-based provincial program

In 2012, the United Way of the Lower Mainland set out on a journey to mobilize and empower BC’s seniors by helping them with everyday tasks around the house and by connecting them with their community. In partnership with the Government of BC, the UWLM’s seniors program, Better at Home took to the community to facilitate selection of lead organizations that would best deliver Better at Home services to their most vulnerable seniors populations. As of September 2014, the Better at Home program has grown to 61 provincial programs and served over 6,300 seniors. Building on community assets and developing capacity at the program level are at the root of Better at Home’s work.

Setting up a local Better at Home program is complex. Building partnerships, developing contracts, handling insurance requirements, and finding the right staff all need to be tackled early on. For some organizations all of this is new, while others have years of experience in seniors work.

One of the duties of our local Better at Home coordinators is locating isolated seniors and pairing them with volunteers to help cultivate lasting relationships. Finding vulnerable seniors is difficult and time-consuming, as many are not engaged in social activities and are isolated at home. Finding volunteers can also be a challenge. Working with a vulnerable population requires diligent volunteer screening and training to ensure people are safe and prepared to deal with sensitive issues.

The Better at Home Provincial Office supports each program with program development, implementation and service delivery. On our online HUB, local coordinators meet, ask questions, and share information and valuable resources. There they can find easy access to the program handbook, resources, and information about other provincial programs that can support their work. In-depth training opportunities are available through webinars and in-person training, and every two months a teleconference brings the program coordinators together to share their experience and build their practice. In addition, the two provincial field coordinators are available for individual program support. They check-in regularly with each program, point coordinators to appropriate resources, connect them directly with their peers and pay the programs a yearly visit.

Every day we learn from our programs and while we learn, we continuously adjust Better at Home to ensure all seniors are served as best as we can. Ongoing learning allows us to expand the breadth and reach of the program. It has been an enlightening and fruitful journey thus far, and we look forward to continue to support the independence of seniors in years to come.

Bridging the divide: Better at Home supporting diverse seniors in Burnaby

Stock photo – Afghan woman

Roya* is a proud 92 year old woman from Afghanistan who came to Canada as a refugee. Roya had absolutely no family support in Canada, and very few friends. She felt extremely isolated, partly because her Afghan dialect is quite rare. This made communication with neighbours and people in her community very challenging. This communication barrier also made it very difficult for the Burnaby Better at Home staff who needed to find someone to effectively communicate Roya’s needs and help bridge barriers in cultural expectations and understanding.

To help Roya get access to the support she so desperately needed, Burnaby Better at Home worked closely with a number of agencies, including Burnaby Home Health through the Fraser Health Authority. Burnaby Better at Home then called upon MOSAIC to provide an Outreach Worker to translate Roya’s needs back to Home Health and Better at Home. That connection with the Outreach Worker was essential in giving Roya a sense of comfort and trust. As a result of perseverance, patience and good communication among the various agencies, we received the following feedback from Roya’s Occupational Therapist at Burnaby Home Health: Burnaby Better at Home is the only success we have had with this client. Every other support we have tried to put into place has failed over the past years.

In Roya’s case, and countless others, Burnaby Better at Home has experienced great satisfaction in our work with the ethnic community. Recognizing the multi-cultural population in our community, Burnaby Better at Home set out to partner with MOSAIC as a key strategy to better serve our diverse residents. MOSAIC provides Outreach Workers to translate and assist with client intake and home visits, check multi-lingual voicemail messages and even assist in promoting Better at Home through various ethnic newspapers. As with cases like Roya’s, communication and connectedness can make all the difference to an isolated senior.

It is our belief that with the right people, perseverance and patience, there is the opportunity for a positive outcome in any situation. We truly believe that had the community not all pulled together to help Roya, she would have most certainly fallen between the cracks.

*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of Better at Home clients

Castlegar Better at Home gives personal attention to its clients

In Castlegar, we do our best to provide our services in a personal, efficient and consistent way.

We believe that by connecting our clients with only one or two service providers, we foster trusting and productive relationships between clients and the Better at Home team. These relationships create safe and consistent connections for our clients, which can reduce isolation and reduce risk for elder abuse. Though we have many fully independent and well connected seniors, we have many more remote and potentially at risk clients who are isolated, either physically or socially.

Many families who have concerns over their loved ones feel the Castlegar Better at Home program fills the gap in needed services and is a gateway to other services and supports in the community. Better at Home connections ensure someone is seeing them regularly and is quick to pass on any concerns that may arise. Gatekeeper training, offered by Community Response Networks (CRNs) ensures the Better at Home team recognize changes and signs of distress in seniors that may require intervention to help attain additional supports. Concerns are reported to the Better at Home Program Coordinator or Seniors Advocate for further action, as required.

Kathleen Barisenkoff, a senior living in Castlegar for over 50 years has been a Better at Home client since August 2014. Kathleen very much looks forward to seeing her assigned housekeeping contractor, Loni, on a regular basis: “Loni is a little angel. We just get along so well. She is so quick, so good. Great personality. I feel so good to be at home and have a clean house. Loni is exceptional, we get along so well!”

Better At Home is not just about cleaning – it’s about creating connections and promoting independence in a safe and happy environment, at home.

By Sandi McCreight, Program Coordinator – Castlegar Better at Home

In Castlegar, we do our best to provide our services in a personal, efficient and consistent way. We believe that by connecting our clients with only one or two service providers, we foster trusting and productive relationships between clients and the Better at Home team.