Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Comparing Housing Options for Seniors

I have done many lectures for groups of seniors and their families over the years. What I find interesting is that more often than not, the piece of information most know little about, is the difference between each level of care and how you determine the kind of place you may need to go to when the time is right. I think that most people assume that there are 'seniors homes' where seniors can go. Until you are in a situation of having to make a decision, what that means and where you actually can go, is not the sort of information you seek out. Unfortunately, it is something people should learn about before the need for it creeps up on them. Knowing the difference and when to start looking might very well impact quality of life and choices available. The sooner you become aware of options, the better. Needing little or no care affords you far more choice and, in some cases, may prevent or delay the need for long-term care.
So, for those of you that might need some info on different levels of seniors care and accommodation here is a quick overview.
Independent Seniors' Apartments - these are usually private apartments with no care but potentially with rent geared to income. Some might have a visiting doctor or social type programs but essentially they are for the well and independent who does not need any significant care.
There are now some Senior Condominiums which are for purchase units but usually if they are billed as 'Seniors' settings then there is either some care or housekeeping available and often dining facilities on site. Again though, one would have to be fairly independent in this type of a setting. Life Lease/Equity Units are a variation on a Seniors' Condo because you purchase a the right to live in the unit, not the unit itself.
Retirement Residences - are usually privately owned and operated. Some provinces do have regulation/legislation - most recently Ontario has added this dimension to retirement living. While most residents go in when they are fairly independent, there is usually the option of adding care as needed for a price and often meals on site. Costs vary depending on many factors. Some homes add the option or indicate that they provide "Assisted Living' which may simply mean that the 'care portion' is included or available. More and more homes do have the capacity for significant care or even managing people with dementia. 
Long Term Care /Nursing Homes - are for those requiring significant care but are medically stable. The government of each province sets the rates so all homes in this category charge the same. As well, they usually manage applications and waiting lists. All meals are included as well as care. In most provinces the resident is responsible for room and board costs and incidentals they may require. 
Complex Care - this is for the medically unstable person or one with very complex issues. These places are more like a hospital-like setting and doctors and nurses are on staff all the time. 
Palliative Care - usually this is for people that have a prognosis of 3 months or less. Comfort care only is provided. 

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