The BC government has announced that changes to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act will come into force from December 1, 2019. The changes give seniors greater flexibility to stay in assisted living residences and increase regulatory oversight to strengthen protections for residents. The new rules should assist First Nations considering setting up an assisted living residence to address the gap in services for elders in First Nation communities.

The growing need for assisted living facilities in First Nations communities and the lack of adequate infrastructure was identified as a critical gap by the 2018 Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs report The Challenges of Delivering Continuing Care in First Nation Communities. This gap often results in elders having to leave their communities, leading to social and cultural isolation, poorer health outcomes and significant losses for communities that can no longer benefit from the support, advice and knowledge of their Elders.

The new changes should create more choices for seniors, and more flexibility for assisted living residences. They should also assist First Nations considering establishing an assisted living facility to address the needs of their communities, although funding and lack of clarity regarding jurisdiction for these types of facilities remain challenging.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is a semi-independent type of housing that provides extra supports to help with activities of daily living, such as meals, recreation, medication management and psychosocial supports. It provides residents the choice to live independently in a home-like setting. It can be contrasted with long-term care homes, which provide more intensive care and supervision.

Existing rules limit assisted living residences to providing no more than two “prescribed services”, namely:

  • regular assistance with activities of daily living, including eating, mobility, dressing, grooming, bathing or personal hygiene;
  • central storage of medication, distribution of medication, administering medication or monitoring the taking of medication;
  • maintenance or management of the cash resources or other property of a resident or person in care;
  • monitoring of food intake or of adherence to therapeutic diets;
  • structured behaviour management and intervention; and
  • psychosocial rehabilitative therapy or intensive physical rehabilitative therapy.

As a result, seniors requiring more than two prescribed services were unable to continue living in assisted living residences, often causing them to move away from their communities or lose a degree of independence.

The new rules

Under the new rules, assisted living residences can provide any number of services, provided that residents:

  • can make, on their own behalf, decisions that are necessary to live safely,
  • can recognise an emergency and take steps to protect themselves or follow directions in an emergency
  • do not behave in a manner that jeopardizes the health or safety of others, and
  • do not require, on a regular basis, unscheduled professional health services.

This shifts the focus from the services provided, to the needs of residents. The changes will allow seniors to continue living in assisted living residences, creating more choices and independence.

You can read more about the changes in the Ministry of Health press release.