“A voice crying in the wilderness”, in modern idiom speaks of the idea of a lone voice promoting an unpopular idea. It was often how I felt. Not today! It took 37 years but a recent Ministry of Health announcement to 29 organizations that they had been awarded long-term care beds for development, included the affirmation that the “lone voice” was no more. Of these 29 organizations, 19 were identified as communities which were, or planned to be, “Campuses of Care.”
In 1983, Christie Gardens was incorporated as a not-for-profit registered charity, developed to provide accommodation and services for seniors. The doors were opened in 1984. The community comprised apartments, a retirement home, and a nursing home all under one roof. We called it a “Continuing Care Community.”
Our commitment was clear, expressed in marketing slogans at the time …
“The last and best move you will ever make”; “Home for the rest of your life”; and “A community you can have faith in”. While these were meant to be catchy, the commitment was clear: to provide flexible high quality services, if and when needed, in the face of changes in the health status or capacity of its residents. They could stay “at home” at Christie Gardens, and never be a stranger again. This commitment included admission to its nursing home should the need arise.
The concept was unique and charted a new course in seniors communities. Operating it was challenging and there were many naysayers. However occupancy was the envy of many at 98 to 99% yearly with growing waiting lists.
Over time, legislative changes and the introduction of government-managed waiting lists were major hurdles. There was no provision for preferred access to publicly funded long-term care (as it was now called) and our commitment to our residents was at risk. Long term apartment and retirement home residents faced with the need for care could no longer access the services that were onsite in “their home.” Spouses could be separated into different facilities without recourse, and those with complex health needs could be forced to endure the stress of a move at their time of greatest uncertainty.
The story of that transition is told in my memoir: Joyful Journey – an Adventure in Eldercare.
Our decision in 2009 to sell our licenses and withdraw from the publicly funded long term care system, was the path to fulfill our mandate to our residents and provide care “if and when needed.”
The lone voice continued however. Many groups toured and inquired of the “what” and the “how”. There was always the “but”. We were told that legislation did not support our model. We were told that it was too complex to operate. We were told that we would always need government funding. We were told that we would never be able to get bank financing.
It took 37 years but our commitment never wavered. Campuses of care! A novel idea, or so it seemed, pioneered in no small way by one lone voice.
The lesson: clearly identify your mission and vision and be unrelenting in its implementation. There will be major hurdles, but keep climbing over them. It’s ok to be a lone voice. The day of affirmation will come.
Up next, Changing the Culture of Care.
There will always be a need for the “lone voice” because without we would cease to evolve care and service delivery.
Thank you for your courage, commitment and perseverance to bring about needed change.