Mary MacDonald and the Continuity of Care

By Peter McKinnon

With the support of donors, Perley Health continues to pioneer a concept known as continuity of care: providing access to the housing options, supports and services seniors need to live independently for as long as possible. The experience of Mary and Earle MacDonald illustrates the concept well.

Mary and Earle MacDonald raised four children in a home adjacent to where Perley Health was built in 1995. In the 1960s and 70s, the MacDonald children often played in the empty field now home to the Perley Health’s 25-acre campus.

After the children grew up, the couple remained in the family home into their late 80s. To help meet their growing needs, when they moved into a two-bedroom-plus-den apartment in a new innovative housing project known as the Seniors Village. Built in 2013 with the support of donors and three levels of government, the Village features 139 seniors’ apartments and ready access to a host of services, therapies and activities.

Perley Health is home to not only 450 residents—including approximately 250 Veterans—in long-term care, but also to approximately 200 seniors in independent-living apartments. The campus also features a hair salon, pub, cafeteria, craft studios, church services, exercise classes, and medical and physiotherapy clinics. A team of Perley Health coordinators provides access to eligible care services.

While they lived in the apartment, Mary and Earle MacDonald accessed an increasing number of services through the provincially funded Assisted Living for High Risk Seniors Program. Earle fell ill and passed away in 2018. The next day, Mary moved into her own studio apartment in a part of the Village known as the Commons: units of 10 studio apartments, each equipped with a private washroom, and clustered around large communal living and dining spaces—areas supported by a Personal Support Worker (PSW).

“Having that consistency and continuity made the transition a lot easier for everyone in our family,” says daughter Marybeth MacDonald. “The care that Mom gets here is exceptional.”

Every week, 92 year-old Mary MacDonald gets her hair done in the salon three floors down from her studio apartment. From her window, Mary points toward her former home. “I’m happy here because I look out at the same scene as I did when I lived just over there,” she says.

Mary, like most tenants of the Commons, qualifies for a provincial program that provides assistance with activities of daily living. Under the program, PSWs help with everything from dressing and showering to preparing and serving meals. They also go on walks and to appointments.

To help address Canada’s critical shortage of PSWs, Perley Health converted an unused dining room to build the Living Classroom in partnership with Algonquin College. Students of the College’s PSW Program attend class here, and interact with residents of the long-term care home and tenants in the Commons. The partnership is just one of the many examples of Perley Health’s commitment to innovation in the care of Veterans and other seniors. Expanding the Seniors Village to accommodate steady growth in demand for independent-living options for seniors is another example. Construction of a new home for 200 seniors is expected to start in 2021.

The Perley Health Foundation raises funds to support the Health Centre. Donations to the Foundation pay for equipment and services essential to top-quality care for residents but not covered by government. Donations also support the expansion of the Seniors Village and Perley Health’s ongoing research into how best to care for frail seniors and how best to train care providers.

“The world certainly needs more Perley Health,” says Marybeth MacDonald.

And donors like you can make it happen.