The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) published a report on July 2, 2020 that consists of 9 steps to solving the workforce crisis in nursing homes, all of which require a strong, coordinated leadership at the federal and provincial/territorial levels to implement.
It says” Our long-term care sector, particularly nursing homes, is in crisis now from far more than COVID-19. The pandemic just exposed long-standing, wide-spread and pervasive deficiencies in the sector.”
It implores the levels of government to:
- listen to older adults especially those living with dementia and their caregivers
- acknowledge profound inequities faced by elderly, especially poverty
- develop and support management and leadership
- build resilience and listen to workers in long term care (LTC) who do the direct care
- establish standards for appropriate levels of regulated health workers
When I read ‘profound inequities’, need to establish ‘adequate levels’ and ‘establish standards’, I am frightened. Those of us who have had parents or friends in nursing homes or long-term care have long seen the inequities. We knew there were not enough staff and standards were as varied as the facility.
Many of us supplemented care and were vocal advocates so our loved-ones were well cared for. We were able to pay for the extras that were not provided such as vision, feet and eye care. We saw ernest staff, coping with residents who had dementia or were upset/depressed, and yet these caring staff had no support or training.
We’ve all heard of restraints of medication being used to calm someone. Or a resident calling out from their room in obvious distress. It broke my heart to go into my friend’s residence and hear the moans, the calls and smell the odours that meant there wasn’t adequate staff to care for all the complex needs.
How can we expect staff to have strategies to assist when there is no standard formal training? Or they simply cannot get to all the patients they are assigned? They aren’t lazy. They just don’t have the skills or the time to accomplish what is needed.
Older people are entering care facilities with far more complex needs than those who entered even 10 years ago. We are all living longer. We need more complex and higher levels of medical and social care. Therefore staff need to be better prepared.
I was shocked when I read that The Canada Health Act DOES NOT protect or ensure universal Long Term Care! Canada’s Long Term Care sector has it roots in the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601! It’s time for an update.
The first step recommended by this report is to address the workforce crisis. Untrained care aids and personal support workers are injuring themselves, experiencing burnout and are the lowest paid in the health care sector. Since they do 90% of the direct care they need to be properly supported and have a voice in the care of the patients.
I believe we need to establish federal standards and have inspectors making monthly, unannounced visits to long-term care facilities and nursing homes to ensure standards are being met.
Our governments need to see this as a priority. We need to let them know it is important. As the report says there is ample sound evidence on how to achieve this. While the pandemic exposed the crisis, it is long-standing, wide spread and pervasive. The deficiencies in the sector are deplorable.
Write to The Federal Minister of Health The Honourable Patty Hajdu as well as the Federal Minister of Seniors, The Honourable Deb Schulte. Also send letters to your provincial ministers. Let them all know it is priority. Our voice will make a difference.
We need to speak up for those who cannot.
To read the report RESTORING TRUST: COVID-19 AND THE FUTURE OF LONG-TERM CARE go to: