Moving to Complex Care

Making the decision to move a spouse or aging parent into long-term care is one of the most difficult decisions families make. Guilt, resentment, confusion and relief are just some of the emotions caregivers experience. Many families tend to underestimate how difficult the transition can be and often find themselves practically and emotionally unprepared.

Family caregivers and the person they care for are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the decision and the process. While the logistics of any move can be demanding; preparation for the move and the post-move adjustment can be daunting.

Long-term care, also known as complex care, is a facility that provides 24-hour skilled nursing care and supervision for people who are no longer able to care for themselves. Staff members administer medications and assist residents with daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. Less than five per cent of older Canadians live in complex care, with the average age in their late 80s.

Eligibility for government-subsidized complex care is evaluated and determined by a case manager at a local Health Authority. Factors considered include: the person’s health status; the family caregiver’s ability and willingness to provide the necessary care; additional support in the home; and if community resources currently being used are appropriate, safe and sustainable.

Those assessed as having the greatest and urgent needs are given priority for admission to the first available and appropriate bed. Cost is a daily rate based on 80 per cent of the resident’s income. Private Residential Care, where no subsidies are available, costs from $3500 to $6500 per month.

Once the decision is made for complex care, it can feel like having to “wait it out.” For some families, this part of the transition is the most difficult as they live with the uncertainty of when a bed will be available and feel they need to be prepared for a move at a moment’s notice. This waiting period can lead to increased anxiety and stress.

Building a circle of support is crucial. Choose a team of people to support you – emotionally and physically – as well as supports that have practical skills including experience caring for someone in complex care, legal and financial expertise, excellent listener, etc.

If you are a joiner, think about a Caregiver’s Support group. There are several groups for specific diseases such as stroke, Parkinson’s and dementia. If you are having difficulty finding information on how to access these groups, contact the Family Caregivers of BC directly and we’ll point you in the right direction.

We know it is easier said than done, however, caring for yourself as a caregiver is one of the most important things you can do for your family member – and yourself! Though it may change, your role as a caregiver doesn’t end when the person you are caring for moves into complex care.

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