When Nancy and John decided it was time to sell their bungalow this spring, everyone in the family had the same question: what about mom and dad?
Well into their 80s, Nancy’s parents had been happily cohabitating with her and her husband for the better part of a decade. As the octogenarians’ caregiving needs evolved, Nancy was keen to find a way for them to maintain their independence, while tapping into more formal caregiving services than she and her husband could provide on their own.
“We’ve been trying to find a solution that keeps them in their own condo, but also gives them a little more help and oversight than we can offer on a daily basis,” explains Nancy. “It’s been tricky to figure out because we want to continue caring for them, but we know we’re going to need extra help soon.”
That dilemma is increasingly common across Canada. New data shows people 85 years and older are the fastest-growing age group in the country. That’s particularly relevant here, in B.C., where the number of seniors crossed the one million mark for the first time in 2021. Folks aged 65 and older now make up more than 20 percent of the population. Even more poignant: 77 percent of B.C. seniors over the age of 85 are living independently. Ensuring those who do so can maintain a fulsome quality of life will only become more important as the population continues to age.
In Nancy’s case, that dynamic has moved her to embrace a hybrid approach. She’s leased a condo for her parents, just around the corner from a new home of her own. The senior-friendly neighbourhood is ripe with outdoor spaces and ample opportunities for social interaction with family and other people their age—factors she hopes will make for happy years ahead. While she’ll continue to provide arm’s length support, Nancy plans to scale up professional home caregiving over time. For now, she’s working to understand what’s available through public social services, and where she’ll need to supplement those offerings with private caregiving.
“It’s not always clear to me what’s actually available,” says Nancy. “We’re going to need to combine a few different types of caregiving to make sure everything is covered off. That includes us continuing to playing a very active role.”
This kind of information is absolutely critical for any family navigating a similar journey. The key is to eliminate any potential surprises early on and get clear on what services are (and aren’t) publicly available.
What should you keep in mind? At Home Care Assistance Vancouver, we recommend keeping these three guiding principles in mind as families consider their options:
- You may need more than one source of caregiving support. Families we work with in Vancouver are often surprised to learn how much—or how little—is available under the public system alone. Getting to the heart of what a senior requires to live well at home now, and then thinking through additional caregiving needs they may need down the road, is a good place to start. That roadmap helps families ask the right questions, and start planning to fill gaps accordingly. Blended approaches that bring together public services, private caregiving, family support or even a retirement residence could net out to a well-rounded approach. But you won’t know what you need until you dive into what’s actually available.
- Transactional and comprehensive care are very different things. Too often, senior care is pegged as ensuring basic needs are met. But that alone is not enough to nurture the kind of meaningful life and overall wellbeing that seniors deserve. A balanced care method will go beyond transactional interactions to consider how a person feels, what their nutrition looks like, whether they’re getting enough exercise, and so much more. Empowering a senior to live their best life means getting to the heart of what is, or isn’t, included in any potential care plan you develop.
- Caregiving should reflect the evolving complexity of aging itself. Seniors change over time. That’s why one-sized-fits-all approaches to caregiving often fall short. Complex health conditions require a next-level approach to caregiving that’s designed to foster a high quality of life, no matter what’s happening on the health front. Consider medical complexity at the front end of planning, and think ahead to what today’s challenges could mean down the road as conditions evolve. Then, opt for a caregiving option that grounds expandable care in solid relationships you build today.
If you remember just one thing…
The best care is personalized to the specific needs, nuances and personality of an individual senior. Put those factors at the centre of your planning to foster a senior’s health, happiness and wellbeing over the long term.