Tag: long-term care homes
When Covid-19 swept across Canada in March of 2020, it proved to be a virus that does not discriminate between young and old or rich and poor. However, this virus took particular hold of our long-term care homes. In doing so, Covid-19 shed a glaring light on an already broken system. It exposed a deep-rooted and systemic problem. It revealed chronically understaffed homes with overworked caregivers, painfully lonely residents, and the innate need for social connection. It is amidst this bleak backdrop that advocates at Advantage Ontario have urged the provincial government to support more “Seniors’ Campuses of Care” (“Seniors’ Campuses”) across the province.
Seniors’ Campuses provide a range of housing options in a community-like setting, including: assisted living, affordable housing, retirement homes, and life leases. Seniors’ Campuses offer residents a variety of social programs as well as health supports. This model also offers elders continuity of care which, in turn, provides for a more stable environment and one that is conducive to developing deep relationships with fellow members of the community. As Jane Sinclair, Chair of the AdvantAge Ontario Board of Directors, stated, “they [Seniors’ Campuses]…are vibrant, age-friendly communities that promote friendships, social inclusion, mutual support, and positive aging.” Seniors’ Campuses give residents agency over their lives.
Not only do Seniors’ Campuses offer a vast array of benefits to their members, but the model also offers the government a cost-effective way to reduce the pressure on an already overwhelmed long-term care system. Members pay monthly fees to live on Seniors’ Campuses, which vary depending on the housing model they choose to reside in. Members are able to move from one model of housing to the next as their needs change. For example, if an individual was residing in an affordable housing unit and experienced a health deterioration, he/she could be transferred to assisted living. This integrated approach provides seniors with appropriate care and enables them to remain in the community and avoid unnecessary placement in long-term care homes for as long as possible. It is a model that encourages independence and allows seniors to maintain their dignity.
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Suzana Popovic-Montag and Tori Joseph
Just as an economic recession has serious ramifications for our society, so too does a social recession. A social recession can be described as a phenomenon whereby social bonds and human connection unravel the longer we are without interaction. Similar to an economic downturn, a social recession can have significant physical and psychological effects on people. Of particular concern to many is the effect that such a recession will have on the elderly, an already vulnerable population.
Restrictions in long-term care homes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have only magnified a deeper rooted pandemic of loneliness that was already in existence. The virus also shed light on an already strained and crumbling system. CBC Marketplace found that 538 of the 632 long-term care homes in Ontario were repeat offenders of abuse, inadequate infection control, inadequate hydration, unsafe medication storage, and poor skin and wound care. These homes were in direct violation of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations.
The importance of human connection cannot be underestimated. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, found that people with higher levels of social connection experience less inflammation (which is attributed to many chronic diseases) than those who are more isolated. Toronto long-term care resident, Devora Greenspon, although not infected with Covid-19, described her loneliness as “so deep it feels like a disease.”
Residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes have pleaded with the government to address the mass devastation caused by social isolation. It is crucial that elders and long-term care residents are protected from the spread of Covid-19. However, it is equally as important to halt the plague of loneliness from spreading any further. There must be a greater focus on the devastating effects of isolation on elders’ mental health as a healthy mind can often be the greatest weapon against disease. The inevitability of a social recession should not be overlooked.
Thanks for reading!
Suzana Popovic-Montag and Tori Joseph
I am proud to be part of a COVID-19 Working Group established by the Ontario Bar Association’s (OBA) Elder Law Section. We are urging the Ontario government to act now to increase the safety of older adults living in long-term care homes. The OBA letter to Ministers Fullerton and Cho found here makes specific recommendations for the implementation of immediate measures, some of which are:
Resume unannounced annual Resident Quality Inspectors
The Long-Term Care Homes Act requires inspections at least annually, without advance notice, to ensure compliance. However, in the fall of 2018, the Ministry of Long-Term Care scaled back comprehensive Resident Quality Inspections to focus on ‘risk-based’ complaints-triggered inspections. The government is being asked to resume unannounced annual on-site and in-person inspections, as they are an essential compliance measure to protect the vulnerable population of residents in long-term care homes.
Safeguard residents’ right to give informed consent or refusal to treatment and the delivery of personal assistance services
In the long-term care setting, Ontario law requires informed consent of a person or their legally authorized substitute decision-maker both in respect of treatment and personal assistance services. This necessitates health care providers and personal support workers having the ability to engage with residents, to explain risks and options, and to address questions. Their ability to do so is hampered by staff shortages, insufficient personal protective equipment and a lack of resources and training. The Ministry of Long-Term Care is being asked to ensure that health care providers and personal support workers have the knowledge, resources and time to properly engage with residents and ensure their consent or refusal to treatment is fully informed.
Ensure sufficient life safety measures are installed in long-term care homes.
Long-term care homes are exempt until January 1, 2025 for installation of automatic fire sprinklers under the Ontario Fire Code, on the basis that under a long-term care home rebuild program, all Ontario long-term care homes would be brought up to current standards by January 1, 2025. Given the delay in the rebuild program, many older long-term care homes still do not have automatic fire sprinklers, and are unlikely to be brought up to current standards by January 2025. The government is being called upon to implement sufficient life safety measures, including installing automatic fire sprinklers in all Ontario long-term care homes as soon as possible.
Accelerate the completion of a long-term care home rebuild program**
Currently, approximately one-third of all long-term care beds in Ontario remain at the 1972 standard. These beds accounted for 57% of the province’s 1,691 reported COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes (as of early June). The Ministry of Long-Term Care is being asked to take immediate control of the rebuild program to ensure that new homes are built or rebuilt promptly, in locations that meet the demand for long-term care home services.
I am appreciative of everyone who supported this initiative, and to the Working Group in particular: Lawrence Swartz (Chair), Graham Webb, Raymond Leclair, Kim Gale and Amy MacAlpine.
Have a great day,
** Here you can find the announcement that was just made regarding the acceleration of the rebuild program.