Issue 44 – Terminology

Charlie had just finished having his teeth cleaned and was waiting for the dentist to come in and give him the thumbs up. He never understood why, but he still got anxious in the dentist’s chair, even though his dentist was one of the nicest people he knew.

“Well hello there, Mr. Stewart!” Dr. Wong’s cheerful and friendly voice had an almost sing-song quality to it as she entered the room. “Well hello back at ya!,” Charlie smiled. Dr. Wong smiled back. She always enjoyed Charlie’s appointments and would never admit it to her other patients, but he was definitely one of her favourites. “Have you been keeping out of trouble? What’s new?” Charlie chatted for a while, getting Dr. Wong up to speed on everything that had happened – the selling of the house, Hazel’s fall, even the scare he had with his cat, Cleo. Dr. Wong listened attentively as she organized her instruments. “So are you and Hazel in assisted living then?” Charlie looked at her a bit confused. “No, we’re in a condo. Really nice place.”

“Oh,” Dr. Wong puzzled as she took out Charlie’s dental xrays. “I would have thought you and Hazel would need assisted living after your stroke and her fall.”

“What do you mean?,” Charlie asked.

“Well, I would imagine you both would need some supports.”

Charlie nodded, “Oh yeah, we have supports in place to help her out. The place has been really good about that.”

Dr. Wong was even more confused. “So, you have a health care aide then?”

Charlie shook his head, “No, we have a lady from homecare come in. But only to do the stuff that’s not covered in our service package. We have different staff people that help with that stuff.”

“Hmmm…sounds a lot like the type of place my mom lives in back in Ontario. They call it assisted living there. Maybe they call it something else here.”

“Maybe,” Charlie thought. “I’ve never heard the term ‘assisted living’ before. All I know is that we live in a condo and get homecare.”

“But it’s a condo for seniors?,” Dr. Wong asked.

“I guess. I only see old people living there,” Charlie giggled.

“Here I am working in a health profession, and I don’t even know what they call it out here. That’s kind of embarrassing.” Dr. Wong asked Charlie to open his mouth and started her examination.

“Does it have a dementia wing?”

Charlie nodded a ‘yes,’ wondering why dentists always asked questions when they had tools in your mouth. He wanted to tell her that it was actually called ‘memory care’ but figured that what Dr. Wong was talking about and what the condo people called it were probably the same.

Dr. Wong completed the exam, made a few notes in Charlie’s file and began tidying up. “I imagine it must be quite the change to move to a new place,” she said finally.

“It’s been a good change,” Charlie said thoughtfully. “Doing all the research and talking to people to try to figure it out can be pretty confusing though.”

“Well look at us just now. We were likely talking about the exact same things, but couldn’t even find the right terms,” Dr. Wong laughed.

“Absolutely. It’s not an easy system to navigate… but if you put in the effort to understand things it’s worth it. Mind you, I did leave most of that to Hazel. She’s smarter than me,” Charlie chuckled again.

“Well, you take care of yourself, sir!,” Dr. Wong gave Charlie a little pat on the back as they made their way to the front desk.

“I still get to keep my chompers?,” Charlie asked jokingly.

“For now,” Dr. Wong winked. Charlie settled things up with the ladies at the front desk and headed for home.

Once again, this week’s issue called attention to the fact that people use very different terms to describe seniors housing, and there are various understandings out there. It can be very daunting to navigate the system without knowledge of the proper terminology, or if one has preconceived notions of “what seniors housing is.”

ASCHA is working towards a common language for seniors housing and we NEED YOUR HELP! Please take a moment to participate in our 10-15 minute survey to let us know what terms you know and use, to help us better understand your thinking around seniors housing. We want to arrive at a common language that all Albertans understand and feel comfortable using.


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