By Michelle Ferrara

I have been busy fighting the Covid battle in the retirement community and as we approach the light at the end of the tunnel I thought I would share what is happening now.  In a word: BUSY.  The regular Spring inquiries/tours/assessments/ move-ins are to the max.  This is a direct result of many months elderly people have sat at home alone, and the resulting decline of everyone’s mental health and patience.  Here are some things to expect in the retirement industry…

Covid protocols in a retirement residence are on- going, and not what is permitted in the public community. Public Health directives change weekly, sometimes daily so you can expect to be screened before entry and there are many rules about who can come in and what is allowed. Know your proposed time- frame of decision to move-in, or, if you are just researching for now.  It is important for staff to know as the need of those seriously inquiring is overwhelming, so if just browsing, let us know.

Why don’t staff call me back/work Sunday afternoon and after 5pm?  See the first word…busy. Most retirement residences are deluged with inquiries, you aren’t the only one looking.  Staff are wiped after some 16+ months with difficult work, super long hours, and no vacations, so current hours are controlled so that staff get the breaks they need.

I suggest that you are 100% honest about care needs for ADL’s-activities of daily living- we can assist and quote in real time as to what services your loved one needs, but only if you tell us everything- you would be surprised at the number of families who hold back important information, like dementia.  This is no favour to anyone, least of all a potential resident.

The number one issue I see: people wait too long to start the conversation and the process and many families are not prepared.  In waiting too long, you remove a lot of choice in decision making because the individual may be in a post-medical crisis mode, the options are limited, and the time frame more urgent.  I also see a lot of people, even in advanced years, who do not have their affairs in order or paperwork and information readily available.  Copies of both health and financial POA, lists of medications, lists of medical issues, lists of Dr’s and contact info, financial planning in place- what can you afford and what are the state of your finances. Final arrangements and wishes and open dialogue with family so they are prepared.

Staff at retirement communities are prepared to help you find the best fit, so start by being clear about what you want and need and, if it isn’t a fit for you, tell them so and move on so time isn’t wasted for anyone.  Can’t find what you want?  You can engage a Community Navigator to do the leg work, show you the pros and cons and help you to find what you truly want.  Many also provide downsizing.  Don’t be afraid to put your name on a waiting list- you would be surprised at how fast it changes. Final suggestion…in general, when people are elderly the priority changes from luxury settings and amenities, to a stable, caring, consistent staff- be sure to ask your Senior what is most important to them!
Michelle Ferrara is a long- time elder advocate who works in Retirement Living, and has been on the front lines of the pandemic; she is excited to find the fresh air to contribute to the North End Breezes at long last.