Alarm sounded on care for seniors

A coalition of groups that monitors seniors care says the system has become dangerous for residents and employees alike due to funding shortfalls and a lack of resources.In a recent report, the Ontario Health Coalition says 27 resident-on-resident homicides occurred in the province’s seniors homes from 2012 through 2016.With nearly 80,000 Ontarians in long-term care at any given time, OHC says this works out to an annual murder rate of seven per 100,000 population. This compares with the murder rate in Toronto, which in 2016 was 1.55 per 100,000.“Long-term care is a very dangerous place to be on a daily basis,” Bryan Smith, chair of the Oxford County Health Coalition, said at a news conference in Simcoe Monday.“The rates of injury for long-term care workers is skyrocketing due to punching, hitting, kicking and pushing. A lot of this is due to dementia in the elderly population.”The coalition is worried that the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care doesn’t have a plan. Even as the population ages and the needs of seniors with dementia and other mental impairments grow, the coalition says the province is closing down long-term care and chronic-care beds in hospitals and other public institutions.Meanwhile, the elderly population that used to rely on hospitals is directed to private-sector homes that don’t have the staffing or expertise to meet their needs.“We have a grey tsunami coming and no government has a sustainable long-term care plan in place,” says Brenda Cowen, a Norfolk woman with a parent in care and a member of the Family Council Network 4 Advocacy group.“The province has been doling out money, but in terms of a sustainable, long-term plan as to how this grey tsunami will be addressed, no one has done that.”Monday’s news conference is one of several OHC has staged across Ontario in recent weeks. The findings Smith and Cowen shared are contained in a 40-page footnoted report titled Situation Critical: Planning, Access, Levels of Care and Violence in Ontario’s Long-term care.The major problem, Cowen said, is that public- and private-care homes do not have the funding to provide the proper level of care, especially to clients who suffer dementia, Alzheimer’s and other complex conditions that impact behaviour.Often, Cowen said, a resident who lashes out does so out of neglect and frustration.Cowen said the trigger could be hunger or thirst or a soiled diaper that has begun to irritate them.Or it could be anxiety-inducing isolation that wouldn’t arise if a sufficient number of care workers were on hand to socialize and calm them down with touch and gentle words.Ideally, Cowen said, each resident would have four hours of care and interaction with nursing home staff per day. Family Council Network 4 Advocacy is pressing the Ford government to adopt this as a minimal service standard in Ontario care facilities.“Prevention is a whole lot better than having to cure a crisis,” Smith said. “To me, abuse and neglect are the same thing.”These sentiments are echoed in the Situation Critical report:“There can be little doubt that the inadequacy of care levels is a central contributing factor,” the report says in a chapter titled Escalating Violence.“This is a policy choice — not a necessity – and this data should raise a serious question for policy makers: How much longer can we tolerate a situation in which living or working in a long-term care home is more dangerous than working or residing virtually anywhere else in society?”[email protected] read more