Long-Term Care

Moving a loved one into long-term care might be one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make. Whether you do it alone, with your care recipient, or with other family members and loved ones, it can be hard. When It’s Time to Consider a Move includes a list of changes you might see in your loved one that may indicate it’s time to start thinking about long-term care.   

There are two types of government-funded Long Term Care facilities in Nova Scotia.  

  1. Residential Care Facilities are for people who need personal care, supervision, and accommodation in a safe and supportive environment. They must, however, be able to get out on their own if there’s an emergency. These homes are described in further detail under Residential Care Facilities.
  2. Nursing Homes could be a possibility for people who find it hard to do everyday tasks, like dressing or bathing. They are best for people who are medically stable but have nursing needs beyond what home care services can provide.

Talking about making the move to Long Term Care (LTC) can be stressful. Although the doctor might say that LTC is needed, it’s the Continuing Care Coordinator who will assess your loved one’s needs and recommend them for government-funded LTC. A Continuing Care Committee meets on a regular basis to make these decisions.

If your loved one has been approved for a move to LTC you may be asked for your top two or three choices of facility. You and your loved one may want to tour a few of them to see which ones you like best. Other than questions about cleanliness and quality of food, it’s sometimes hard to know what else to ask.  There is a short checklist of 28 questions to consider when touring LTC facilities. There is also a longer, more detailed checklist of 150 questions called Transition To LTC Checklist, to guide you through a more in-depth tour.  You aren’t expected to ask the administrator all 150 questions. They are there to let you know what parts of LTC living might be important to you or your loved one.

Fact sheets from Continuing Care on Long-Term Care and Paying for LTC as well as a complete Directory of LTC Facilities may be helpful in preparing for this change.

Caregiver Tips

All facilities are different.  If you see something that concerns you, talk to someone about it. Contact the director of care or administrator with your concerns or suggestions. This will show them you want your loved one to enjoy the best quality of life they can receive.  

If something happens that seems more serious, you need to know what to do and what to expect. The policies and procedures outlined in Long-Term Care Program Requirements: Nursing Homes and Residential Care Facilities will give you some guidance in handling more serious problems. Also, the Protection for Persons in Care Act provides information for family members of LTC residents. If you suspect abuse, you will find information and the names of people you can contact to talk about it. Both of these Acts outline the roles, responsibilities, and rights of all parties involved in the long-term care system. They are there to make sure the health and safety of persons in care are safeguarded.

It might be helpful to find someone who’s familiar with the facility and ask about their experience. A member of the facility’s Family or Resident Council should be able to help.  Examples of Family Councils include The R.K. Macdonald in Antigonish, St. Vincent's Nursing Home in Halifax (see minutes), and Mountain Lea Lodge in Bridgetown. Not all nursing homes have Family Councils, although the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness requires that one be put in place as a condition of the facility’s licence. If you want to stay more involved with your person’s care, you may want to become a member of the Family Council, or the facility's Residents’ Council.

It’s natural to question the decision to move. As time passes, you will hopefully see it was not only a necessary decision, but a good one.  For now, take comfort in knowing that others experience the same feelings of guilt when someone else is giving care, and relief that your loved one is safe and you are able to reclaim parts of your life.  Into the Hands of Strangers: Placing a Loved One Into a Nursing Home, is a moving, first-hand account of a woman faced with the difficulty of placing her husband, who had dementia, into LTC.  Transition to Long-Term Care may help you manage your expectations in the first days and weeks of placement and Coping with Guilt and Grief after a Nursing Home Placement may help you manage some of your deeper feelings.

Many caregivers ask us which LTC facility is the best. Although we aren’t able to recommend one facility over another, our experience is that an LTC facility, like a book, can’t be judged by its cover.  Whether it’s an older facility or more modern one, all have caring and professional staff dedicated to making the quality of life of every resident a priority. At the end of the day, the facility that’s best for you will depend on your personal taste, needs, and whether or not space is available.

Social Fitness is an uplifting story about a caregiver’s positive experience and the benefits that came from her mother’s move to long-term care.