Moving from independent to assisted living can be a daunting experience for older adults making the transition and their loved ones supporting them along the way.
When Michele Thomas began looking for an assisted-living facility for her mother, Barbara, she found herself navigating a new and unfamiliar system with many roadblocks to finding the right accommodations for care.
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At the time, Barbara was living on her own in an East End apartment, but worsening dementia symptoms made it increasingly difficult for her to continue living independently.
“She wasn’t eating well and couldn’t remember to take her vitamins,” Michele recalls.
Her concern for her mom’s well-being grew as she became aware of an ongoing bedbug issue in her building.
With the urgency of her mom’s living situation and declining health, Michele was relentless in her search to get her the support she needed. But Barbara’s desire to continue living in the East York region provided an additional challenge to finding space among the already limited options.
“I spent months emailing and calling around”
Relief finally came when a social worker who was part of Barbara’s care team at Michael Garron Hospital let Michele know about an opening at one of WoodGreen’s cluster care units. Hearing the news, Michele was thrilled that her long search was finally over.
“I was over the moon,” she says.
That excitement only increased as she learned more about WoodGreen’s cluster care, an assisted-living model that brings together eight to 11 seniors with complex needs in a group living environment. The clusters have private studio units and common living, dining and kitchen areas, where residents can socialize and enjoy mealtimes. Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are on site 24 hours a day for safety and assistance, and to support each resident’s daily needs, including meals and laundry.
‘I didn’t know places like this existed. It felt too good to be true’
Michele describes the atmosphere at her mom’s cluster as being “like a giant tea party” with warm and friendly staff and a beautiful garden outside.
In the seven years since Barbara moved into cluster care, Michele has visited her many times and has made great memories with her mom and the PSW team.
A special moment she remembers fondly is watching her mother dance in the garden with one of the PSWs, Gloria Ann, who she highlights as a team member who has left a lasting impression on her entire family.
“Everyone loves her,” she says. “There’s more hugging, laughing and joking when she’s around. She brings so much life to the place.”
Today, Michele lives in British Columbia, but she continues to manage her mother’s care with the support of the staff at the cluster who provide regular updates to let her know how her mom is doing. When she has questions about her mom’s condition, she is able to get answers quickly.
“They’re so responsive. I can always reach them”
Michele says Barbara is doing well and she is grateful knowing her mom is in a safe environment and receiving the care she needs. She notes that since arriving at the cluster, her mom’s health has improved.
“She’s eating balanced meals now, which she never did before,” she says.
Barbara is also enjoying her time at the cluster unit. Although Alzheimer’s is known to cause mood changes, the team at her cluster say she is happy and always pleasant.
Michele has thought about moving her mom out West, but for now she’s in no rush knowing her mom is happy and well cared for.
“I feel so lucky. They care so much.”