CALGARY -- Staying at home and away from extended family is the message during the COVID-19 outbreak but for those who provide medical support to loved ones, the pandemic has added new challenges.

More than 40,000 people in the Calgary area have received home care services in the past year and costs to provide that care have risen due to the pandemic.

“They get assessed as needing a certain amount of hours but then you add a pandemic and family is not able to help out,” said Sandra Azocar executive director of Friends of Medicare who added that funding available from the provincial government is capped.

Brenda O’Reilly suffered a severe brain injury in 2015 and requires around the clock care, which now requires more shifts from home care workers.

“Family is no longer allowed to be in there like we were previously, just to limit exposure,” said her daughter Amanda O’Reilly.

Brenda and Amanda O'Reilly

She is now the only relative helping out but not as often because the single mom works in the community running Zen Cleaning Service YYC.

The cost of home care workers for her 67-year old mom is over $12,000 a month and she said government funding covers about half.

“The cost is astronomical to have 24-hour care.”

Around-the-clock care is required not only to provide basic needs but because she requires constant supervision.

“She’ll fall down, she’ll walk into walls. She has no sense of danger so she will literally walk off a flight of stairs or touch things that are hot, put things in her mouth that are dangerous or poisonous,” said her daughter.

They family has started a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of covering some of the added costs.

Brenda O'Neill

Friends of Medicare says that a public model for home care would be better suited to assess and adapt to changing needs.

“We’ve left not only the elderly but the disabled population and all those vulnerable populations to fend for themself and to let their families cover the cost.”

According to Alberta Health Services 2019-2020 annual report, more than 130,000 Albertans received home care services in the past year.