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Chapter 1 - Introduction: Real Talk on Senior Living

Welcome to Senior Living - Where the journey begins 

Age is something we never really consider happening to us; we’re too busy living our lives to pay it much attention. And then it sneaks up. Our needs evolve, and suddenly we’re faced with big decisions about the kind of life we want to lead. Of course, we’re still the same person inside, even though the person in the mirror has changed. And so have her desires and demands, interests and priorities, friends and neighbours. Everything changes. And with these changes comes the biggest consideration of all: how, and where, to live. That’s what Real Talk On Senior Living is all about.

Change doesn’t mean a loss of identity or freedom. Actually, it’s often the opposite.

We appreciate how difficult it can be to even consider a change. Just talking about this stuff is tough. Aging. Homes. Care. Life. The whole thing. We wrote this guide to make it easier to understand the options, and to tell it like it is. What are the benefits of getting care at home? Might a change in scenery be beneficial? What level of care is needed? How to balance needs and preferences to make the best choices?

Our goal is to give you the information you need, so that you can help to make sound decisions, and never feel rushed. Think of this guide as a straightforward resource for learning about what’s out there, like the advice you’d receive from a trusted friend, without casting judgment or telling you what to do. It’s for the son or daughter who’s concerned about their parent, but doesn’t know where to turn or even how to talk about it. And it’s for the person who knows that something has to change. But what, and how, and when?

Divided into five sections, this guide begins with the question everyone asks: how do you know when it’s time for a change? We then carefully explain the three main senior living options — home care, a retirement residence and long term care — and the key differences between each one. Later, we talk about “having the conversation,” and about the costs, considerations and transitions that such a lifestyle change requires.

It’s worth pausing here for a minute to talk about the three main options outlined in Real Talk On Senior Living. In general, home care is for someone who wants to remain in their own home, but might require a helping hand, whether it’s for housekeeping or companionship or something more involved, such as nursing, physiotherapy or rehab. A retirement residence is for someone who might be just as independent, but chooses to live in a community designed for seniors; one with a lively environment and where care is often available if needed, with access to doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other care providers. Finally, long term care is for seniors who are no longer able to live independently, and who require more care, available 24/7, for complex chronic conditions or cognitive challenges.

In Canada, senior living is a highly regulated sector, and each province has its own rules and qualification processes related to care and funding. The province will typically cover some costs related to home care or long term care. In contrast, retirement residence costs are most often paid for privately and don’t require a referral. We’ll get into these details later in the guide.

Finally, this guide isn’t meant to tell you what to do. That’s not our role. All we ask is that you be open to new ideas and perspectives. Open to the idea that change doesn’t mean a loss of identity or freedom. Actually, it’s often the opposite. But we’ll get to that.