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Chapter 3 - Understanding your parents’ care options

Right Time, Right Place - Options for senior living
There’s never been a better time to be old. Yes, old. We know that age doesn’t matter, so let’s really embrace it. Besides, Canada has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. Over the last century, the average lifespan has increased dramatically, and now many of us are enjoying vibrant lives well past 80, 90, even 100. You may be able to retire from work, but not from life. How, and where, you spend your time as you get older is more important than ever.

Today, it’s all about independence and choice. As you consider retirement communities, long term care homes and even home care for your loved one, be assured: there is an option that will suit them and their changing care needs. But understanding these options and deciding on one can be confusing. That’s why starting your research now – as you’re doing simply by reading our guide – is key.
When you consider retirement communities, long term care homes and even home care for your loved one, there is an option that will suit their needs.

In fact, it’s never too early to start thinking about how your mom or dad will live in their senior years. Care, for instance, is a little bit different depending on which province they call home, including different funding models and qualifications. And the expectation that the government will cover all of their care-related costs as they age is, unfortunately, unfounded.

But let’s forget about costs for the moment (we’ll dive into them in a later section). Right now, it’s about understanding each option in more detail, so that when you’re ready to dig deeper, you’ve got the basics covered.

Home Care

Home care provides people with support to help them remain in their home. Help may include housekeeping and companionship, bathing and getting dressed, or more involved care such as nursing, physiotherapy or rehab. It may also involve making some changes to the home if needed – maybe a lift for the stairs, a chair for the tub and some handrails throughout. Whatever it takes, home care helps people continue to live in their own home more safely and comfortably.

Each province has its own rules and regulations when it comes to eligibility and funding for home care. Generally speaking, in order to receive government or publicly funded home care, your loved one will first need to go through an assessment to qualify. If they qualify, the agency decides the level of care required, and for how long. There are often special programs for people with lower incomes (if your parent qualifies) that help people age at home, but keep in mind these programs don’t necessarily cover everything.

If your loved one needs more help, and the funding doesn’t cover the care they require, they may need to explore the option of paying for a private home care provider. These providers will enable your loved one to choose the care required and the number of hours needed. Of course, they will need to pay for this themselves. Before selecting a private home care provider, be sure to do the research and ensure it is a reputable company.

If your parent chooses to move ahead with securing at-home care, remember to also encourage them to think about their living situation and whether it continues to meet their social needs. Do they have friends and social connections in their neighbourhood that make their life rich and rewarding? If the answer to that question is no, then they may wish to consider the other options available to them, like moving into a Revera retirement residence or long term care home.

Retirement Residences

At Revera, there is one question we hear residents asking themselves more than any other: “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” They tell us that living in a beautiful space designed for their needs and preferences, with a range of activities and amenities, in an environment of people at a similar stage of life, has helped transform their lives.

Revera retirement residences are all about empowering residents by personalizing experiences, providing choice, and supporting them as they live their lives with meaning and purpose. Then there is the added comfort of knowing that, as their care needs change, more options are available to them.

Revera has a variety of retirement residence options, including Independent Living, Independent Supportive Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Short Term Stay and Respite Care. Bottom line: in many retirement communities, care is available for your loved one if they need it, at the level that makes sense for them. Many provide nursing care, physician services, nutritionists and other healthcare services they may one day need. Whether they need minimal assistance or personalized care, we are here to meet their unique needs and help them live their life to the fullest.

Many of Revera’s retirement homes offer LiveWell™, an approach that’s all about making your parent feel their best. Whether they need a little help bathing or dressing, require some support with medications, or could use a hand getting to the dining room for meals, our senior living services respect their dignity and support the unique physical, mental and social needs they have today – and those they may have tomorrow. Retirement communities are privately run but provincially regulated; generally, the resident pays all of the costs, including care expenses. If your loved one has private insurance, it may help to cover some costs as well.

In our retirement residences, it’s all about living in a community, with little for residents to worry about other than how they want to spend their time. And retirement homes are as varied as they come in terms of design and amenities. Some are individual buildings; others are more like miniature communities. Some offer gourmet meals, on-site shops and other resort-like amenities, whereas others might have vibrant gardens to stroll, book-lined rooms and cafés where your loved one can enjoy an afternoon drink. It’s common to see brilliant gardens and cozy fireplaces.

With a host of recreational, cultural and social events and activities to choose from, there is something for everyone. Do they want to get fit? They can join an exercise class. Do they want to hone their artistic side? They are invited to share their creativity at art class. Do they want to visit the theatre? They can take part and enjoy the show. And don’t forget about their furry companions – many retirement communities are pet-friendly. Along with letting someone else do the cooking, cleaning and laundry for a change, your loved one will be part of a close-knit community, with a lively social atmosphere and camaraderie.

Unlike long term care, your parent can move into a retirement residence whenever they like, to whichever community they like best (assuming there isn’t a waiting list). But before they commit, make sure they visit a few times: taste the food, talk to the residents and the staff. Get a feel for the place. Can they imagine themselves living here? 

If they are planning to visit a few retirement homes, our handy checklist can help your loved one compare, so they can decide which one is best for them.

Long Term Care

Often confused with retirement residences, long term care homes or nursing homes are for those who can no longer live independently, for physical or cognitive reasons, and need supervised care and support. People who require the specialized environment a long term care home provides often have complex multiple chronic health conditions, frequently including dementia.

The decision to move to a long term care facility is often a tough one, both for seniors and their families. You may feel guilty about no longer being able to meet the needs of your parent on your own, or sadness that your loved one’s medical needs have progressed. You may worry about their independence or if they will have a sense of loss about leaving their home to move to long term care. All of these feelings are natural; it’s important to also keep in mind the social and healthcare benefits of long term care.

In long term care, highly skilled care teams focus on the person – developing an individualized care plan that supports their comfort, dignity and safety. It’s not just their physical well-being; their social, intellectual and spiritual wellness are also important. That’s why many long term care homes offer a variety of recreation activities, including fitness classes, art and creative pursuits such as music therapy and horticultural programs, and access to computers and libraries. There are also outings, cultural and community celebrations, multi-faith spiritual services and volunteer programs. Here, meals are made with both taste and nutrition in mind.

Long term care homes have different room options – some older homes have only semi-private (shared) rooms, while others offer a mix of semi-private and private rooms. Because long term care is government funded and regulated, the care costs often differ from province to province. Typically, your loved one pays for their accommodation (these rates are set by the provincial government, not the operator, and are the same for all residents in a given province), while the government covers the cost of things like care, food, programming and certain medications.

To get into a long term care facility, your parent must undergo a provincial health assessment, which determines the care for which they qualify. There are often waiting lists through the regional or provincial agency, so it’s very important to get their name onto the list as quickly as possible; it’s also important to remember that in some provinces they may not get their first choice.

We encourage you and your loved one to visit a few long term care homes before they make their choice. Each one is unique and has a different community vibe. To support the search, we’ve developed a long term care home tour checklist. The checklist covers the kinds of items that your mom or dad should be looking for in a long term care home, and provides space to record thoughts and then compare so they have the facts they need to choose the home that suits them best.