A Room of One’s Own

Dr. Jeanette Auger

Imagine that you have to move into a care facility after you have lived independently in your own home for many years. In your own home you are able to make your favourite meals, buy your own groceries, enjoy quite hours with a book, watch television, listen to music, and have meals and private conversation with friends. Should your health situation deteriorate dramatically, what is in store for you could be surprising.

If you become in need of daily supervision by a nurse you will find yourself placed on a very long list of others waiting for a room. A room of your own could preserve much of your independence and privacy while giving you the comfort of familiar things around you. In Nova Scotia, about half of the rooms in long-term care facilities offer only shared accommodations. Therefore, here’s what can happen.

You receive a call letting you know that a placement has occurred in a nursing home close to your community, but you will need to share a small room, as well as one bathroom, with three others. For example, at Grand View Manor 124 of 142 residents do not have a room of their own. Rooms are small. There will not be enough room for some of your most beloved possessions, so you will be selecting only a few things to take with you.

Other than with family, or with dorm-mates during one of your university years, you have always lived alone, strongly preferring to do so. When you move into the ‘home’, which feels prison-like, despite the kindness of staff, you will eat at a time scheduled by others and will have limited menu choices. If you want to watch television, or listen to the radio or music, you will do so knowing it interferes with your roommate’s privacy. Your roommates are strangers to you. You hear one snoring all night, another uses the bathroom frequently and these activities wake you up, yet another is suffering from the early stages of dementia and she cries a lot and sometimes does so throughout the night. Sleep is elusive. Imagine on, because for those in need of daily nursing care, a long-term care facility will likely be a last home.

At Grand View Manor these types of circumstances are very real. We know firsthand that a single room changes what must be changed. We have been working with the Government of Nova Scotia to advance a project to give each resident a room of their own. We have the land. We have the plans. We are shovel ready.

Grand View Manor will be fifty years old on October 31. The governance board’s request to end any further delays needs to be heard by that date for construction to begin in 2021.

Our Province can replace the substandard accommodations provided for our elders at Grand View Manor. As Premier McNeil heads towards his own retirement he can tell 142 people that the work they did over many decades for others matters. With an announcement he can prove their worth to all of us.

As a professor emeritus and adjunct professor at Acadia University, Dr. Auger’s research and publications deal with aging, death, and dying. She has worked alongside older adults in many community-based settings in Vancouver, British Columbia and across Nova Scotia. Dr. Auger is an advocate and fierce supporter of older persons, and currently serves on Grand View Manor Continuing Care Community’s governance board.