Discuss elder care, living arrangements: doctor

Colin MacLean
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Dr. Patrick O’Shea, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, speaks with a group of pensioners Tuesday. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram

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O’Shea touched on several issues, but he stressed one point; many older people have an outdated view of what long-term care facilities are like.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While not everyone holds this outdated view, it happens enough that it’s of concern, said O’Shea.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.

cmaclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners Association

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • RN
    September 21, 2011 - 13:48

    Taxpayertoo stated that "someone needs to address this situation BEFORE it gets to be a problem." As a staff member in our local ER - I can assure you that is ALREADY is a problem. We often have elderly clients brought into our ER for one of two reasons - #1 They were living in their own home or with family, and their health has declined - so they need accommodation in a facility that can provide the care they need. OR #2 They are already in a facility that provides some care - but their health has declined and the facility can no longer take care of them. In either case - it's heart-breaking and sad for all concerned. And - while awaiting assessment and placement in a different facility - these poor folks end up admitted to hospital. If they are lucky - they get a bed - if not - they could spend a night or two or more on a stretcher in ER until a bed is available. Guess what happens to the average 85 yr old who had to use a walker to be up and about before spending two or three nights on a stretcher? That's right - suddenly - they aren't able to be as mobile as they were prior to coming to hospital. Thus requiring even more care. This whole situation is very serious - and requires much more attention and action by government than it is getting.

  • I'm A Senior
    September 21, 2011 - 10:54

    I'm a Senior (Younger senior) and dispite what people may say, I would hate the thought of going to a Senior's Home, and for two reasons: 1) I would be terrified I wasn't going to be treated right by the workers. I know for a a fact that some Senior's Homes' Staff mistreat seniors (not all of the staff but some). When a senior can't understand, and the staff are rude, it gives them a very terrifing experience and it needs to be addressed at all times. Most times this experience goes unnoticed, but other staff should come forward and have it corrected. I don't want that in my lifetime; 2) Some senior's aren't looked after for food, and not changed as necessary but left in the mess for hours lots of the times. THAT IS MY REASONING! GOD LOVES THE SENIORS AND YOU SHOULD TOO!

  • taxpayertoo
    September 21, 2011 - 10:38

    There are a number of private facilities that are going up with supposedly assisted care. These range in price but are aprox $4,000 per month for slightly over 500 sq ft. Works out to an average of $50,000 per year. Apparently folks are selling there homes and using this money to pay for their care. So if you get $250,000 for your home you can have 5 years in one of these places. If you live longer then they kick you out. So down the road we are going to have a load of seniors with no funds looking for the govt to look after them. I think it is criminal to have seniors paying that kind of money. Many of these folks do not realize that they will end up in this situation down the road. The worst part is that the money spent does not really cover that much. They can get meals, a bit of cleaning and a few other perks but if the senior needs more help then once again they have to move. It's akin to taking candy from a child. There should be a cap on what companies are charging seniors. Somebody needs to address this situation BEFORE it gets to be a problem.

  • Lena Sutton
    September 21, 2011 - 08:51

    Maybe Dr. O'Shea and members of the provincial government need to visit some of the long term care facilities. My dad, who passed away March 2010, was in a long term care facilitiy in St. John's for a year before his death. In the first facility the room which had two beds was not big enough for two residents. My dad had major heart problems and could not walk long distance had no memory problems, could still make his own decisions and do some things for himself like using the bathroom, feeding himself, dressing, etc. His roommate usually ended up being a dementia patient that could not help himself even with the bathroom which was very difficult for my dad and very difficult to have a visit with him. When my dad was transferred to Agnes Pratt Home, the care and staff were really good. The only problem was one bath a week which was difficult for my dad to handle because he showered every day at home. The second problem was his personal clothes were never properly returned. My mom due to major health issues, that being the reason for my dad in a nursing home, could not take his laundry home to wash and many times when she went to visit him he would probably be wearing women's socks and a few times women leisure pants. My dad had lots of clothes that were his but the laundry was not marked proper to be returned to the proper owner. Maybe Dr. O'Shea or a government member shold look closely at the public funded nursing homes that residents cannot afford to pay for a private room.

  • mom
    September 21, 2011 - 08:28

    I think that some media coverage of what it is like to live in a long term care facility today would help to put a lot of senior's minds at ease when it comes time to make that transition. I know that you would have to have permission from those seniors to tell their stories, but I don't think that would be a problem. Most seniors love to help others and enjoy sharing their stories. They could talk about any difficulties they had with the transition from their own homes to living in a long term care home and the activities they take part in now.