Long Term Care & Nursing Homes
24/7 care for your loved one
Is nursing home care the right option?
In Canada, nursing home care is intended for seniors who need access to 24-hour care and daily support services for an array of physical and/or cognitive conditions, as deemed eligible by social service agencies. A wide range of care and different levels of service, including for dementia and Alzheimer's make this an ideal community for a wide variety of people with unique health needs.
What are some distinguishing features of long-term care homes?
- The province fully funds medical and support services and residents pay only for room and board. Subsidies are available for those who cannot afford the full resident co-payment
- Nobody is refused access on the basis of ability to pay
- Mix of private, provincial, municipal, non-profit and charitable operators
- Personal "plan of care" prepared for each resident and assessed every three months
- 24-hour nursing and personal care; access to physician or other health-care professionals
- Medication is administered by trained staff
- Various living arrangements to support residents with cognitive impairment or dementia
- Shared or central dining room and common facilities, such as lounges
- Organized and regularly scheduled recreational and social activities
- Housekeeping and laundry services
- Optional services (i.e. hairdressing) can usually be purchased for a fee
- Services and amenities can vary
- Depending on the region, may have waiting lists
What should I consider when selecting a long-term care facility in Canada?
When thinking about long-term care in Canada, it is absolutely imperative that you not wait for a crisis. You should discuss retirement home options now to avoid a potentially tragic situation that involves yourself or a loved one. Here are some important things to bear in mind as you embark on your search for long-term care:
- Talk about preferences while your loved one's cognitive abilities are still intact
- On-site tours are essential to get a good "feel" of the long term care home in person
- Bring a close relative or a friend — several sets of eyes are better than one
- Take a good look at the rooms or suites and imagine yourself staying there. Return for a second look or stay overnight if available.
- Stay for a meal or two
- Don't be shy: Ask staff lots of questions
- Talk to current residents that live in the long term care home
- Ask for references
- Give yourself or your relative a reasonable amount of time to adjust to life in a new setting
What should be considered when assessing your care needs?
- What specific care and support is required?
- What cultural supports are important?
- What spiritual supports are important?
- What types of things will make the move to a long-term care residence comfortable?
- Is 24-hour care and supervision required?
- Is my relative's impairment cognitive, physical or both?
- What would make me worry less about my care and safety, or that of my relative?
How should I assess home health-care services?
- Use a written checklist. Find examples on the websites of provider-based associations
- Look beyond room size and decor, and consider the home's philosophy and mission. Who runs it? What is their approach? Does it gel with your own?
- Is there a clear process for residents and their families to participate in care planning and delivery?
- Is there a clear process for contacting relatives in an emergency?
- Is it convenient for friends and relatives to visit?
- Is the atmosphere welcoming?
- Do residents have choices on such things as taking showers versus baths, when they go to bed or whether or not they choose to participate in activities?
- Did staff clearly explain their policies on important issues such as safety restraints and administering medication?
- Did the residents look well-groomed and appropriately dressed?
- Do meals cater to residents' taste, cultural or religious requirements?
- Is there a residents' council?
- Is there a clearly defined process for registering and resolving complaints?
Homes with palliative care
Many homes listed here also offer palliative care for ailing seniors. This approach to care focuses on easing the pain and burden faced by patients and families dealing with a life-threatening illness. Palliative care focuses on the prevention and relief of suffering of elders who may have a terminal diagnosis. Care provided may include therapies and medication, including pain relief.
Most specifically palliative care seniors' homes offer:
- directed relief from pain and other distressing symptoms associated with progressive diseases
- mental and emotional support that affirms dignity and life
- experienced caregivers well-trained in dealing with people in the same situation
- extended care intended to neither hasten nor postpone death
- an environment where other patients and families are going through the same thing
- a team approach that involves family members in the care of the ailing senior and demonstrates, through example, how families can provide appropriate care for ailing elderly family members
- care that works in conjunction with other therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy,
- relief from the distress of complications that arise from the illness and therapies that may also be exacerbating pain
- education and support that helps family avoid unnecessary stress
- care that helps the patient avoid any unnecessary hospitalization
Palliative care homes are improving the care they provide, as new research becomes available. Changes in medication, therapies and technology are applied to help improve the care and prognosis of the patient. However, palliative care generally entails that the patient has a terminal prognosis no longer than a year, and more likely no longer than six months.
Why do some people call it a long-term care home and others a nursing home?
Within the senior care industry it is customary to correct people when they refer to "nursing homes." The phrase "nursing homes" has gone out of vogue as this entails that patients require constant nursing or it has become attached to negative media stories about abusive or neglectful treatment of the elderly. In any case, "nursing homes" is not used in the industry, where the phrase "long-term care" has a more modern, professional connotation.
Compiled with the assistance of Karen Sullivan, executive director of the Ontario Long Term Care Association and the OLTCA website; Donna Rubin, CEO of the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors and the OANHSS' website; staff at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and its website; Statistics Canada's website.