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Long-term health care: A look inside the often-baffling system

Theresa Boyle, Health, The Star

Last July, Howard Cohen was thrown into a tailspin that many Ontarians find themselves in when an elderly loved one suddenly falls ill. His 91-year-old mother, Norma, was diagnosed with colon cancer at North York General Hospital. Cohen, a doctor, decided against surgery, given his mother’s quick and marked deterioration, her age, and the fact she has dementia and had recently suffered a heart attack. Cohen recounts how he was given a list of local homes, told to pick five and rank them in order of preference. Three would have to have short waits and his mother would have to go to the first home with a bed available. Cohen started to climb what would be a steep learning curve, researching and touring homes. He was perplexed by the disparities, particularly when it came to what the homes had to offer residents with dementia. These same disparities result in some homes having empty beds, while others have waits as long as 14 years. He was stunned to discover, he says, that he had been misinformed and given inadequate information about how to select a home by a hospital social worker and a case manager from one of the province’s 14 community-care access centres (CCACs), which control entry into LTC facilities.

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