Long waits for Toronto-area nursing homes geared to cultural groups reflect need for more of them, report says

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Lily Wong was admitted to the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto at age 88, several years after she had a stroke that severely affected her short-term memory, ability to follow conversations and her balance.

The wait time to get into the long-term care home was nine to 10 years, but Wong was admitted in slightly less than seven. 

"Which was, like, super fast," said her son, Tony Wong.

It's been two years since she was admitted, and Lily Wong is doing well living in a home that meets her cultural needs, her son said. It's a relief to her children, too.

"If you can go into a nursing home environment that speaks your language, that has culturally specific activities, that has food you remember, it's just a massive weight off," said Tony Wong.

"It's just an incredible thing to be able to experience."

Part of the reason for the long wait time is because Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care is one of few culturally specific homes that cater to the Chinese-Canadian community in Toronto and the surrounding areas.

Experts say culturally specific care homes have some of the lengthiest wait times for long-term care. A study by the Wellesley Institute, a non-profit that works in health research and policy, found that more than half of the top 20 homes in the Greater Toronto Area with the longest wait times are culturally specific care homes, reflecting a need for more of such facilities.

"Demographic changes have [driven] the increasing demand for such care," said Seong-gee Um, a researcher at the Wellesley Institute.

"It's really crucial for the system to adapt and evolve and reflect the diversity of its current and future residents."