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Chapter 3 - Understanding your 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 past century, the average lifespan has increased dramatically, and now many of us are enjoying vibrant lives well past 80, 90, even 100. You may have retired from work, but not from life. How, and where, you spend your time is more important than ever.

Today, it’s all about independence and choice. When you consider home care, retirement communities and long term care, be assured: there is an option that will suit you and your 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 home care, retirement communities and long term care, be assured: there is an option to suit you.

In fact, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’ll live in your senior years. Care, for instance, is a little bit different depending on which province you call home, including different funding models and qualifications. And the expectation that the government will cover all of your care-related costs as you 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, or make a move, 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 your home if you need them – maybe a lift for the stairs, a chair for the tub and some handrails throughout. Whatever it takes, home care helps you continue to live in your 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, you first need to go through an assessment to qualify. If you qualify, the agency decides the level of care you require, and for how long. There are often special programs for people with lower incomes who qualify and who want to age at home, but keep in mind these programs don’t necessarily cover everything.

If you find you need more help, and the funding doesn’t cover the care you need, you may need to explore the option of paying for a private home care provider. These providers let you choose the care you require and the number of hours you need. Of course, you pay for this yourself. Before selecting a private home care provider, be sure to do your research and make sure you’re working with a reputable company.

If you choose to move ahead with securing at-home care, remember to also think about your living situation and whether it continues to meet your social needs. Do you have friends and social connections in your neighbourhood that make your life rich and rewarding? If the answer to that question is no, then you may wish to consider the other options available to you, 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 you by personalizing experiences, providing choice, and supporting you as you live your life with meaning and purpose. Then there is the added comfort of knowing that, as your care needs change, more options are available to you.

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 of our retirement communities, care is available if you need it, at the level that makes sense for you. Many provide nursing care, physician services, nutritionists and other healthcare services you may one day need. Whether you need minimal assistance or personalized care, we are here to meet your unique needs and help you live your life to the fullest.

Many of Revera’s retirement homes offer LiveWell™, an approach that’s all about making you feel your best, so you can keep being you. Whether you 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 your dignity and support the unique physical, mental and social needs you have today – and those you may have tomorrow. Retirement communities are privately run but provincially regulated; generally, you pay all of the costs, including care expenses. If you have 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 to worry about other than how you want to spend your time. And they 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 you 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. Want to get fit? Join an exercise class. Want to hone your artistic side? Share your creativity at art class. Want to visit the theatre? Take part and enjoy the show. And don’t forget about your furry companions – many retirement communities are pet-friendly. Along with letting someone else do the cooking, cleaning and laundry for a change, you’ll be part of a close-knit community, with a lively social atmosphere and camaraderie.

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

Planning to visit a few retirement homes? Our checklist can help you compare so you can decide which one is best for you.

Long Term Care

Often confused with retirement residences, long term care homes or nursing homes are for those who can no longer live independently, whether for physical or cognitive reasons, and need supervised care and support. People who require the specialized environment provided in a long term care home 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. Families may feel guilty about no longer being able to meet the needs of their parent on their own, or sad that their loved one’s medical needs have increased. You may worry about your independence or feel a sense of loss about leaving your home to move to long term care. All of these feelings are natural; however, it’s also important to keep in mind the social and healthcare benefits of long term care.

In long term care, highly skilled care teams focus on you – developing an individualized care plan that supports your comfort, dignity and safety. It’s not just your physical well-being; your 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, you pay for your 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 some medications.

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

We encourage you to visit a few long term care homes before deciding which is your first choice. Each one is unique and has a different community vibe. To support you in your search, we’ve developed a checklist for your long term care home tour. This checklist covers the kinds of items you should be looking for in a long term care home, and gives you an opportunity to record your thoughts and then compare, so you have the facts you need to choose the home that suits you best.