Sixty-eight-year-old Shirley Loewen and her husband, Ken (74), recently maneuvered through the process of finding a long-term care facility for Ken's mother. It was tough to know where to start, "We did a lot of Googling, a lot of calling different locations," Shirley notes. "It was all so foreign to us."
In the end, their efforts paid off; they found a facility that suited Ken's mom well, her quality of life improved, and she is flourishing there. Shirley and Ken aren't alone; struggling to speak the foreign language of senior living is a predicament many find themselves in. A desire to bring some clarity to a complex and sometimes stressful topic is what drove Bria Communities to develop a free 18-page interactive Guide to Senior Living in BC.
"There is a lot of confusion and misconceptions surrounding housing and care options for older British Columbians," says Tanya Snow, Director of Bria Communities, a group of four privately-owned independent living senior communities and two long-term care centres in Langley and Tsawwassen. "We wanted to create a resource that focused exclusively on senior living and homecare—something to help demystify the options."
"For 25 years, I've been offering advice off the side of my desk. People like Shirley reach out because they don't know where else to go," says Snow. "It feels like my professional and civic responsibility to help."
Options like assisted living, independent living, home care, and long-term care each have easily overlooked nuances. First-timers to the conversation can easily get turned around; reaching out to industry experts is the natural response.
The Guide to Senior Living in BC brings together more than 100 combined years of senior living expertise found among the General Managers and Directors of Care at Bria Communities. It offers a one-stop shop for older adults who want to know their options. Simple descriptions and definitions of terms, expert advice, overviews of services and subsidies, and clickable next steps all unlock the mysteries of senior living.
"All too often, I talk to adult children who are in a crisis with their parent's living situation, and they don't know where to begin," says Snow. "Ideally, a resource like this prevents last-minute, urgent decision-making." She points out that equipping yourself ahead of time ultimately leads to greater choices. "If you know what's available, you can take advantage of it and enjoy a healthier lifestyle rather than waiting for an accident or incident to define your next step."
Discussions about senior living next steps frequently happen among Shirley and Ken's peers. "It comes up either because we have older adults in our lives who need to move or because our kids are looking at us thinking, "when are you going to downsize?'" She and Ken live in a detached home in Aldergrove, and as their neighbourhood fills with young families, they think about what kind of community they'll need when they make their next move. "We're thinking long-range because we want to find somewhere fulfilling," she says.
The Guide to Senior Living in BC simplifies a complicated topic for Shirley, "It's succinct, easy to follow and easy to understand. I love that you can go to the links right in the document and click through to additional resources," she says.
Equipping older adults with a tool for navigating the maze of senior living doesn't just answer questions; it can offer hope. "The reality is that there's lots of lively and vibrant options for seniors,” comments Tanya Snow. “Your retirement home could be your best home, and it certainly doesn't have to be your last one. Our goal with this guide is to help define the options and take the stress out of making the transition."
The Guide to Senior Living is a free interactive pdf available online at BriaCommunities.ca/Guide. Seniors who do not have access to a computer can request a paper copy by calling 1.844.969.BRIA (2742)