GUEST COLUMN: Aging-in-place model encouraged for Oak Bay Lodge

Operational design for new facility must take elderly couples into account

By Linda Reid, M.D.

My parents are currently awaiting a couple’s placement in residential long-term care, having moved from their home in Oak Bay to independent living and then to assisted living all in the past two years. Through both my professional and personal experience, I feel compelled to comment at this crucial moment for seniors’ housing issues in Victoria.

The Oak Bay Lodge property will remain in public hands and this is a tremendous achievement. However, current plans do not include the preservation of the Campus of Care currently offered at Oak Bay Lodge. Such a concept exemplifies the vision of the future for seniors in residential care, allowing residents to transition from independent living to assisted living to residential care, without having to move to a different facility. In essence, a Campus of Care model allows seniors to age in place.

Seniors entering independent living have already left their homes and neighbours, generally for health reasons.  Once their health further declines (as it inevitably does with time and age), they suffer greatly when they are forced, yet again, to leave the security of their new home and community. They must face not only the loss of functional capacities, but the loss of familiar caregivers, surroundings, friends and even family.

For couples living together in an independent or assisted living facility, any change in the health status of one member that renders the couple at different levels of care means they face separation. With a Campus of Care model, that member could receive more complex care onsite, without having to move to a different facility. Oak Bay Lodge and Selkirk Place in Victoria are the only two public facilities currently offering such a model.

Under the proposed plan, Baptist Housing sees Shannon Oaks as the independent living facility and Marrion Village as the assisted living facility, with the current Oak Bay Lodge property being devoted to long-term residential and dementia care. The distance between these properties does not meet the Campus of Care definition.

Furthermore, a senior living at Shannon Oaks or Marrion Village is not guaranteed a bed in Oak Bay Lodge when they are facing placement to a facility with a higher level of care.

Ministry of Health policy states that clients deemed eligible for residential care must accept the first available bed offered and must occupy that bed within 48 hours of the offer. There is no guarantee that seniors will be offered a bed in their preferred facility; however, seniors can again request and wait for the long-term care facility of their choice.

The policy for couples who are at the same level of care is that one member generally moves first, with the other member to follow once an appropriate bed becomes available. In all but a Campus of Care model, these transitions require moving to another location, possibly without ever having seen that property and potentially being separated from one’s spouse.

Seniors often endure four or five moves in their journey from their family homes to independent living to assisted living to long-term care to finally arriving at their long-term care facility of choice. Each successive move frequently intensifies losses of a cognitive, emotional and physical nature.

Now is the time for Oak Bay to set the standard for the compassionate care of our seniors by promoting the Campus of Care model and the concept of aging in place in planning for the renewal of Oak Bay Lodge.

Linda Reid is a longtime Victoria physician who lives in Oak Bay.