Transitioning a loved one to long-term care

By Carmen Costantino
June 11, 2010

Making the decision to move a spouse or aging parent into long term care is one of the most difficult decisions families have to make.

A few weeks back, I started a series on how to manage the transition to long term care. So here we are, post-holidays and into a New Year. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s actually helpful to clarify what is meant by “long term care”. Trust me, there are so many different ways to describe this form of housing, it makes me dizzy!

What is long-term care?

It’s technically called complex care; however, other more common terms used are long term care, residential care, and nursing home. What it really means – a facility that provides 24-hour skilled nursing care and supervision for people who are no longer able to care for themselves. Staff members administer medications and assist residents with daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. Only 1-2% of Canadians live in complex care facilities with an average age being 86 years old.

Eligibility for a government subsidized complex care facility is evaluated and determined by a case manager from Island Health Authority. Factors considered include the person’s health status, the family caregiver’s ability to provide the necessary care and support in the home and if the community resources currently being used are appropriate, safe and sustainable. Those assessed as having the greatest and urgent needs are given priority for admission to the first available and appropriate bed. Cost is a daily rate based on 80% of a senior’s income. There are also private Residential Care facilities where no subsidies are available including Comox Valley Seniors Village and Cummings Home.

Transitioning to long-term care

Once a decision is made, it can feel like having to “wait it out”. Some families feel this part of the transition is very difficult with the uncertainty of when a bed will be available and feeling they need to be prepared for a move at any time. Some families and the person being cared for experience increased anxiety and stress during this period.

Building a circle of support people is really important. Choose a team of people to support you, emotionally and physically as well as supports who have very practical skills including having cared for someone in complex care, legal and financial experience, excellent listener, etc.

If you are a joiner, think about a Caregiver’s Support group. There are several groups for specific diseases such as stroke, Parkinson’s and dementia. If you are having difficulty finding information on how to access these groups, please contact me directly and I’ll point you in the right direction.

I know it is easier said than done; however, caring for yourself as a caregiver is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family member. Your role as a caregiver doesn’t end when the person you are caring for moves into complex care.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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