It's a wonder no one thought of it before! A senior has a fall at home, is taken to the emergency. An elderly woman is found wandering at night by a police officer. After an apartment fire, an older couple is advised by the fire department to leave the building.
But what happens next? If they're lucky, these seniors in trouble have family to take them in. All too often that isn't the case or a spouse may just be too frail to look after them.
Surprisingly no public agency is able to step in in an emergency. That's why the Retirement Residences Group, which operates some 80 retirement homes in Ontario, launched its Rapid Response program five years ago.
Hospitals, police, neighbours, relatives-anyone-can phone a single toll-free number (1-877-929-9222) and be sure a temporary bed will be provided for a senior in need.
"The reception has been pretty phenomenal," says program director Dana Dunbar, who started the program and now has a staff of five answering calls.
When a crisis occurs, says Dana, many seniors worry "they're going to put me in a home." But the Rapid Response approach is strictly temporary-it's designed to give families and seniors a breathing space while long-term answers are found.
"We have many healthy seniors who have a fall, need care for a while, but are then definitely going back to their own homes," she says. Or it may be a case of someone with dementia needing a secure situation or someone waiting for a nursing home placement.
When a call comes, Dana and her staff can call on respite beds in the company's homes across the province-and will even turn to competitors for help if necessary. The cost typically is $75 a day, all-inclusive. "It's a day-by-day thing. The day they leave is the day they stop paying," Dana says. That breathing space, she says, allows relatives or social workers to arrange for home help or involve a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) for long-term care, whatever is necessary.
Often a senior who has been skeptical about retirement homes may find the food, the company and the care are just what's needed, and decide to make it a permanent solution.
"Or we tell them when they leave that they are free to come back and see their friends, play bingo, whatever it was they enjoyed," Dana says. "We have families tell us it was a blessing in disguise that the fall and fracture occurred, that up until then they couldn't get their mother to even look at a retirement home." The main surprise: the number of people who tell Rapid Response staff, "How come I never heard about this service before!"
Toll-free number to Rapid Response: 1-877-929-9222