Are Nursing Homes the Only Options for Seniors in Ontario?

Last month, Eric Hoskins (Ontario’s Health Minister) said the government is working on a plan to staff one of the former locations of Humber River Regional Hospital to relieve pressure on acute-care wards across the Greater Toronto Area. My sister who worked as a registered nurse at the Finch site before it was closed was not surprised. The primary reason behind this move was that too many patients who should be in long-term care are unnecessarily occupying hospital beds. Nearly 3,000 beds in Ontario hospitals (about 16 per cent of the total) are currently occupied by “alternate level of care” patients. In other words, they do not need to be in acute care, and have been officially discharged. But, they remain in hospital because the actual level of care they need is not available.

I work as a nurse myself. Having worked in a nursing home, long-term care settings, rehabilitation hospital and a complex care hospital as a student and a nurse, I have seen how fast empty beds gets filled up with new admissions first hand. Seriously, empty beds fill up as fast as the number of losses leafs rack up in a season. The waiting list for a nursing home is ungodly long. According to this Toronto Star article published in March, 26,500 seniors continue to go without access to a long-term care bed, as the wait list hits a new record high this year. Plus, the article states the list will double to 50,000 people over the next six years. Long-term care is only going to get worse, unless the government takes action now. Ontario Hospital Association president Anthony Dale rightly stated, “The root of today’s capacity challenge is that far too many frail elderly patients can’t get access to the care they really need outside the hospital setting.”

This begs the obvious question, who said all the seniors have to live in a nursing home or a long-term care setting? Yes, Ontario needs more nursing home beds. Yes, Canadians are worried about their parents, grandparents and their loved ones. Everyone wants the best care available to their loved ones. Is it easy to take care of a senior living with Alzheimer’s or dementia? NO. I take care of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia every shift. It is challenging. Heck, it can be extremely demanding. But, help is here.

There are several home care services providers available in the GTA .You can pick and choose. Caregivers will help your loved ones with their activities of daily living (ADLs) and enable your loved ones to maintain a normal life. How about a trip to the Blue Jays game or a brunch at the Grenadier Café in High Park? Voila. Additionally, you can have a peace in mind with caring and reliable caregivers. There is competition in every industry and home care service is no different. You can do your research online or talk to your friends and find the right home care service. If you don’t like your first option, you can easily find a second one. I can’t say the same for a nursing home. In fact, I would say it’s almost impossible. Pause and think about this for a few seconds. You can have your loved ones living with you in close proximity and hug them every night before bed.