Gillian Eades Telford has published numerous articles on gerontology and aging. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and a Master in Gerontology degree. Since 1998, Gillian has worked as a private consultant helping individuals find suitable supportive housing and providing advice on potential legal issues in long-term care facilities.

Making the Move: Housing Options for Seniors (Self-Counsel, 2004)

from BCBW Summer 2004
As baby-boomers near retirement, listen for Jimi Hendrix blaring in the hallways of seniors’ housing. The Me Generation isn’t going to go placidly. That’s why we’ll be hearing a lot more from the likes of Gillian Eades Telford, author of Making the Move: Housing Options for Seniors (Self-Counsel, 2004).

“Health is a very political matter,” says Eades Telford, “and one of our major problems is lack of political will to change the system. Government talks the talk but cannot walk it. They say they believe in ‘closer to home’ but do not provide the resources to make that a possibility for most people.”

Eades Telford has taken her experience as a gerontologist to explain the differences between home care, residential care, adult day-care and shared living services. She uses true stories to illustrate issues involved in choosing the right senior housing. Checklists offer questions to evaluate facilities. Is there a covered walkway? A nice garden? A nice place to smoke? Can more than one season of clothes be stored in the rooms? Is there an orientation board for those with dementia? Some questions may come as a surprise. Are all plants edible?

BCBW: Do you have a personal reason, such as a parent or other family member, that prompted you to write this book?

Eades Telford: Yes, I wrote the book after my mother died. It’s dedicated to her and her friends. One of the reasons I quit work was to look after my mother. She died at home but it was a complicated process to meet her request. She was not happy with me as I refused to be the caregiver. I wanted to be a daughter not a caregiver.

When I was a nursing home director, more Alzheimer caregivers died than did Alzheimer patients. Making the decision to go into a nursing home is distressing to all concerned. There isn’t much help out there to ease the process. This book was written as a tool to make a more informed decision.

BCBW: What do you see as the biggest problem with seniors’ housing today?

Eades Telford: Lack of choice. If you are single, poor and ill, you have no choice but to go into a nursing home. If you are rich you have options, such as home care. Because the government rations home care, keeping clients at home without supplemental care is unsafe. But housing can be elder-friendly. The government is providing some solutions, such as rent control and subsidizing rent so elders can stay in their homes.

Another piece missing is short term rehabilitation and nursing home care. Elders take longer to get back on their feet from a catastrophic event like a stroke or even just recovering from a bad flu. Some elders end up in a nursing home when they don’t need to just because they have no family to take care of them for a few months. Assisted living arrangements are an option but they’re costly and the government doesn’t subsidize that level of care.

BCBW: Are attitudes towards seniors changing?

Eades Telford: Ageism is still prevalent. Elders are not cherished for their insight and knowledge of history. When the boomers get old they will not tolerate four people in a room nor will they tolerate having a bath once a week. It’s degrading to be in a four-bed room when you’ve always lived alone.

BCBW: What surprised you most during your research?

Eades Telford: That Directors of Care really wanted to improve their facilities. It was also a big surprise when one health board turned down my request to rate their extended care. The government in that case did not want to know how good or bad they were and how they compared to others. I never had any refusals from the private homes.

BCBW: Did writing this book change your attitude towards your own future as a senior?

Eades Telford: No. I won’t be able to afford a private care facility. On Bowen Island we are building an alternative for elders called Abbeyfield. We’re in the fund raising process and the land has been purchased. All 15 suites have already been spoken for. Abbeyfield is a British concept of independent living. Each elder has their own suite and is provided with meals by a house person who also shops and cleans the common areas. There are more than 17 Abbeyfields in B.C.

BCBW: Are seniors in Canada better off than seniors in the U.S.?

Eades Telford: Canadian elders don’t have to be destitute before the government helps out. Americans must carry some kind of private insurance. However, in parts of the States they have innovative, specialized facilities. On Lok in San Fransisco is a program that has been going for over 25 years, in which they truly look after an elder and provide whatever level of care is necessary, from day care to home care.

BCBW: How about in B.C. vs. the rest of Canada?

Eades Telford: BC elders don’t need to battle ice and snow. I did a study between senior centers in West Vancouver and Etobicoke in Toronto. The center in B.C. was much more actively, independently run by the elders themselves whereas the Ontario elders were more passive. The B.C. elders seldom were prevented from attending the center in the winter months but the Ontario elders were afraid to venture out in the snow and icy sidewalks.

There are problems all across the country with health care funding and each province is independent as to how they allot their money. The Canada Health Act governs acute care hospitals and doctor accessibility but not home care. Nursing homes are supported in some provinces and not in others. The B.C. government does support extended or chronic care and special care for level III Dementia clients.