Jen wants newer, more modern long-term care for her mother, Minh.

Jen Chan thought she understood what living in a care home might be like for her mother, Minh. Then she toured an older home. It had an amazing track record. It was known for providing quality care along with a range of cultural programs and services, and the staff was clearly dedicated. But Jen couldn’t understand why so many residents had to share accommodations. And bathrooms had tubs that were side by side where two residents might be bathed in the same room, separated only by a curtain.

Towards the end of her visit, Jen was invited to join
the lunch service. She was especially interested in the food because her mother had been a restaurant owner. Despite all the changes she’d seen in her mother, Jen knew that a well-prepared meal always brought Minh back to another time in her life. Food and the calm ritual of eating were important to her mother. Lunch at the home, however, was anything but calm.

The corridors buzzed with the shuffle of staff, elevators
chimed continually and a long line of residents – some in wheelchairs, other with walkers – led to a small, worn out dining room. Jen took her place in the queue where she witnessed staff break up an argument between two residents who had bumped wheelchairs. It was tense to watch but made worse for Jen because she could see her mother being one of the residents in that altercation. Minh would surely have lashed out at the crowd that, to her, would seem to be ruining the one basic aspect of daily life she enjoyed so much.

When Jen arrived home that evening, she looked at her mom and began to cry. What was she doing? She’s a devoted daughter who values the role her mother played in shaping who she is today. The thought of her mom waiting in line for lunch every day, or sharing a room with as many as three other seniors, who may have aggressive tendencies, was distressing.

Throughout Ontario, government buildings, shopping centres, hospitals and hotels are adopting senior-friendly design principles, from ramps and elevators to parking proximity to the size of the letters on signage. As infrastructure improvements and technological advancements evolve around them, people like Jen struggle to understand how it is possible that their parents’ care home options should be so limited.

And things will only get worse as the role of hospitals is stretched further when families turn to them with no other option in sight. The renewal of older long-term care homes is crucially important to the sustainability of Ontario’s health care sector. In fact, without their renewal, capacity and access to services system wide will see an impact.


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