In the first edition of Aging in the Kawarthas we briefly discussed the aging population of Ontario and options for local seniors who wish to remain in the Kawarthas as they age in place.
Some seniors, or substitute decision makers, choose to leave their home and seek alternative living arrangements such as private retirement homes or long-term care facilities. However it’s no longer as easy as “Mom is going to have to go into a home” as we hear in the community very often.
Private retirement communities are different than long-term care and they tend to have openings for a fee, but the list is growing a lot longer for retirement homes as they are high in demand.
And even if you are blessed enough to have the financial security to afford a private home they are not always what they seem. When budgeting, it is nice to see that rent expenses are governed and can only rise as high as the Landlord Tenant Act will allow each year.
The annual rise in “rent” is typically between 1-3 per cent per year which makes people think that budgeting for increases would be simple. However, a large component of a senior’s monthly fee is not “rent” but “services.” The breakdown is typically somewhere in the region of 60 per cent rent and 40 per cent services. With average rent (in retirement homes and long-term care) in Lindsay hovering around $3,500 then 40 per cent (services) is a significant chunk of the monthly rental expense.
Unlike “rent,” with increases regulated, the fees for “services” can be changed simply by providing 30 days written notice. Speaking from personal experience with a loved one who resides in a retirement home budgeting is very difficult and leaving more and more seniors outliving their nest eggs.
Speaking of eggs, when alone at home, it can be a staple in a senior’s diet. Facility living offers other less monetarily measurable solutions such as a balanced diet, socialization, and daily physical activity. Something about a veteran dining with another veteran can be the most heart warming thing to witness and often the social factor can improve quality of life for years.
Having a glass of water placed in front of a resident three times per day at meals can also drastically improve a senior’s well-being. In fact the simple act of walking to and from a dining area is one of the best physical activities for anyone. All of this accompanied with 24 hour staffing and medication and laundry assistance not only benefits the resident, but also provides a better quality of life for the primary caregiver like a spouse or an adult child.
So what are more economical solutions when seeking a new facility to live in? Long-term care facilities would be the only other option and as stated in an earlier article, the average wait time in Ontario, as per the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), is 149 days.
However, Ontario is a big place and our particular Region of Central East has a 252 day wait period for long-term care, and when your name reaches the top of the list there is only a 33 per cent chance you will move to the facility you wanted to move to. Once your name is called, you have 24 hours to choose to reside in your new found home. This very long wait, paired with a very short window to accept the bed can leave many seniors overwhelmed and wondering if they should take the bed at all.
The dilemma many face is that if the offered bed is refused the senior’s name is taken off the list entirely for at least 12 weeks before their name can then be re-added to the bottom. Our professional advice to those whose names come up is typically, “take it,” as it’s roughly just under a year before a seniors name would be called again.
Once in a long-term care facility the benefits of everything that comes with a retirement facility are also present. But there can be additional peace of mind for specialized care such as secure dementia units, mechanical lift assistance and 24 hour nursing presence for pain management with ailments that can just pop up when you were born 1915.
There are pros and cons associated with every option for local seniors. The key is to stay informed and be proactive in seeking what’s out there. But one constant remains true. Folks who choose to serve seniors do so not for a job, but because it’s a calling, and that’s something to celebrate.