3 things no one tells you about Ontario’s long-term care system

Karen Cumming, Radio and Television Arts ’84
A longtime reporter and producer, Karen Cumming, Radio and Television Arts ’84, is now a freelance journalist, health promoter, and teacher on a mission to help families navigate Ontario’s long-term care system with as little stress and frustration as possible.

Guiding our elderly parents into the final stage of their lives: it’s one of the defining issues of our baby boom generation. If you were born between 1946 and 1964, there’s a good chance you’re going through this experience yourself right now, or you know someone who is. The turmoil that the long-term care system is currently in makes it all the more important that you become proactive and prepared.

My family learned our lessons the hard way. A year and a half ago, my sister Pat and I guided our beautiful mother, Verna, into long-term care. Unfortunately, no one on the inside of that long-term care system seemed to be guiding us. We are smart women. And yet we found ourselves lost inside a confusing maze of care coordinators, nurses, doctors, PSWs, therapists, paperwork, equipment purchases and rentals, and medication. We knew nothing about how the system worked. Nothing.

Why? Because no one had taught us. No one had given us the tools we needed to be proactive and prepared.

The more my sister and I thought about it, the more it made sense for us to channel our inner MacGyver and write a book. And so we did: The Indispensable Survival Guide to Ontario’s Long-Term Care System. Call it the hacks we never had.

Here are three things that no one tells you about navigating Ontario’s long-term care system:

  1. You are the project manager for your loved one’s care. Your job is to educate yourself as to how the system works and advocate on their behalf. Your mom or dad or relative or friend deserves nothing less.
  2. Decisions often need to be made with lightning speed when you are guiding your loved ones into care. Instead of waiting until you’re in the middle of a crisis, start researching now, months or years before you may need to take action. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  3. The LHIN (local health integration network) expects you to tour the long-term care homes in your area and put together a list of preferred facilities for your loved one. Like it or not, it is your responsibility to arrange these tours, talk to the residents and staff of each home, and to make an informed decision. Do it now.

What’s the bottom line? If you’re tempted to throw in the towel, just remember: You can do this. Yes, you can.

The Indispensable Survival Guide to Ontario’s Long-Term Care System is available in paperback and digital formats on Amazon.ca, chapters.indigo.ca, Kindle and Kobo.


A longtime reporter and producer, Karen Cumming, Radio and Television Arts ’84, is now a freelance journalist, health promoter and teacher on a mission to help families navigate Ontario’s long-term care system with as little stress and frustration as possible.

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