The prospect of moving from your home to a long-term care facility is a terrifying, and sometimes infuriating, prospect for many older people.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Dr. Patrick O’Shea, past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, had some reassurance for a group of pensioners in St. John’s Tuesday.
O’Shea was invited by the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners Association to its annual general meeting to address the issue of the emotional impact associated with long-term care.
O’Shea touched on several issues, but he stressed one point; many older people have an outdated view of what long-term care facilities are like.
In his practice, he said, older people facing the prospect of going to a nursing home regularly bring up the spectre of the old poor house in St. John’s.
While not everyone holds this outdated view, it happens enough that it’s of concern, said O’Shea.
“I think we have to change the way we look at nursing homes. We have all this old baggage about the poor house, but we have to look at it as an opportunity to make new friends and to have a much more happy time for the remaining years of our lives, which is really important,” he said.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s population is aging, said O’Shea, and this is a subject families with people of retirement age should start talking about, he said, because demand for long-term care facilities is only going to go up.
“I think being healthy and being well and taking good care of yourself, you may not have to go into long-term care when you’re 70, maybe when your 80 ... maybe when your 99. But at some point, if you live long enough ... almost everyone is probably going to need some form of long-term care,” said O’Shea.
“That’s a frightening thought to a lot of people, but it also gives us some idea that we have to start looking and planning for what we’re doing,” he added.
Talking about issues like long-term care, home care and assisted living can drum up all sorts of emotions in people, said O’Shea, so it’s important to talk about them as a family.
And at the end of the day, the choice to enter some kind of care arrangement always belongs to the individual, unless there are extenuating circumstances, he said.
People can run the gamut of emotions when they face the prospect of going into a long-term care home, he said, everything from helplessness, hurt, worry and loneliness.
An important tool to help people get over these emotions or even avoid them altogether is planning ahead, he said.
“I think planning always makes things a bit easier,” he said.
“The decision to look at long-term care should start to be made at an earlier age.”
But even with planning, these decisions can still be difficult, which is why counselling can also be important, he concluded.
This is a corrected version.