How to Do Good in a Stigmatized Sector

Making long-term care patients' lives better earned Lois Cormack the #3 spot on the 2015 PROFIT W100

Written by As told to Murad Hemmadi
Photo: Lisa Petrole

Lois Cormack’s company is in a growth industry: long-term care. The waiting list for services such as those offered by Sienna Senior Living is 21,000 names long in Ontario alone, and the company’s homes run at 98% capacity. But despite Canada’s aging population and the huge demand, long-term care faces significant hurdles.

How do you build a successful business when your customers would prefer never have to use your services and their loved ones feel guilty when they do? Publicly-trade Sienna focuses on eradicating the stigma around long-term care, and ensuring that families and patients feel welcome and supported. The success of that model earned Cormack, who took the reigns of the business in 2013, the #3 spot on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 Ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.

Cormack explained to Murad Hemmadi why Sienna recently rebranded and how its homes support and care for their residents.

Last year we spent a lot of time on integration. We have 35 long-term care homes in Ontario, with a little over 5,700 residents whom we care for 24-7. We also have 10 retirement homes and a home care business where we provide services to seniors in their homes.

“As we acquired businesses, we didn’t have a common direction or a common look. We were supporting multiple brands and websites. We were called Leisureworld Senior Care, but we’re now called Sienna Senior Living. We also changed the names of our homes to reflect the communities they serve. In May, all of our homes got their new signage and are having big events with residents, families and all the community partners they work with.

“It’s about erasing the stigma. Nobody wants to go to a long-term care home. You must have significant care needs 24 hours a day to be eligible for their care. Usually residents are very frail and require assistance with activities of daily living, like dressing and mobility. Often the families feel guilty—they don’t want to see their loved ones go to a long-term care home, but they can’t care for them anymore. Our social services workers work with patients and their families to make it as welcoming as possible.

“Being in a long-term care home isn’t anyone’s first choice, but it doesn’t have to be awful, either. You can get the most out of every day. Whatever your goal is, we’ll try to help you get to that.”


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