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Know Your Rights When Applying for Elder Care in Canada

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerDecember 14, 2018
Know Your Rights When Applying for Elder Care in Canada

For many people, suffering an illness or injury that requires hospitalization can be a very traumatic experience. This period is certainly not the best time to make a major life decision, like moving to a long-term care (LTC) facility, however, for many seniors, it is often under these conditions that they find themselves forced to make life-changing decisions about their housing and medical care.

A recent report published by CBC suggests that seniors aren’t always given accurate information and guidance about this transition. Learn more about the report and read our tips about what to consider when applying for elder care in Canada.

Hospital Overcrowding and Long-Term Care Bed Shortages in Canada

Jane Meadus, an institutional advocate and lawyer with the Toronto-based Advocacy Centre for the Elderly told the CBC that “patients who want to apply for LTC are often given misleading information by hospitals and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).”

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According to the CBC report, “hospital overcrowding and a shortage of LTC beds” are driving patients in need of care back into the community to navigate the next steps of their healthcare and housing with minimal support.

In these circumstances, patients and their families are not being properly educated on the LTC application process. The article reveals that “many patients and their families are told they can’t apply for a LTC bed while they’re in the hospital or that they need hospital approval to apply,” which is incorrect.

Meadus says the result is a ‘home first’ approach, which has been adopted by several LHINs in Ontario which “encourages patients to return to the community before they make life-changing decisions about LTC.”

However, the CBC report points out that this approach means many seniors are being discharged from hospital with minimal support and even less follow up.

Tips to Consider When Applying for Elder Care

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly offers a variety of “Tips and Traps” to consider when applying for LTC in Ontario:

  1. Never apply to a home you have not seen personally or have not had someone you trust see on your behalf. If the LTC community you have applied to makes an offer before you have seen it, you will have problems in turning it down, even if you then visit and decide it is not acceptable to you.
  2. Placement from the crisis list does not require you to accept any bed or the first available bed that comes up.
  3. When accepting private or semi-private accommodation, be prepared to pay this rate indefinitely. You will be required to pay for that level of accommodation until a room in basic accommodation is available and there is no way to determine how long this will take.
  4. When you are applying for LTC for the first time, you have six weeks from the date of choosing the first home to add other homes. Do not be pressured into putting all five choices on the list immediately if you are not ready to do so. Your application can be submitted with only one home on it and you can add four more in the first six weeks.
  5. When being offered a “home first” or “wait-at-home” program from hospital, read the fine print. Each LHIN offers different programs. Find out how many hours you will be offered and for what duration, as both tend to be scaled back very quickly.
  6. You are entitled to make an application for LTC if you wish to do so even if you are in hospital. You cannot be required to make an application only after you have been discharged from hospital.
  7. You are entitled to receive accurate information about placement and home care programs from your LHIN case manager before making a decision.
  8. You cannot be made ineligible for LTC for the sole reason that you can afford a retirement home.
  9. You do not have to choose from “homes with short waiting lists” or “available beds” when applying for LTC from hospital.

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly also has information on a variety of LTC guidelines and policies, including:

If the time comes when you, a parent or a senior loved one are considering moving to a LTC facility, be sure to consider your rights.

It may not be enough for you to rely on the discharge planner or hospital staff to provide you with accurate, unbiased information.

Always contact your LHIN case worker (if you have one) or seek legal advice to help ensure you are making the best decision for you and your family.

Have you or a senior loved one applied for elder care in Canada recently? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler

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