Canada’s long-term care system failed elders, before and during COVID-19: report

Canada’s long-term care system failed elders, before and during COVID-19: report

Canada’s long-term care system failed elders, before and during COVID-19: report

MONTREAL — Canada has failed in its duty to protect vulnerable elders in long-term care, according to a highly critical report that examines the issue in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

The report released Friday by the Royal Society of Canada found the pandemic was a “shock wave” that exposed many long-standing deficiencies in the system and caused high levels of “physical, mental and emotional suffering” for seniors.

“Those lives lost unnecessarily had value,” reads the report by a working group that was chaired by Dr. Carole Estabrooks at the University of Alberta.

“Those older adults deserved a good closing phase of their lives and a good death. We failed them.”

The working group, which was created by the Royal Society’s COVID-19 task force of scientists and researchers, said the causes of the failure are complex but are rooted in what they called “systemic and deeply institutionalized implicit attitudes about age and gender.”

It found that 81 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have come in long-term care homes, far higher than what is reported in comparable countries, including a 31 per cent figure in the United States, 28 per cent in Australia and 66 per cent in Spain.

The authors say Canadian homes have allowed staff-to-patient ratios to drop and have increasingly shifted to an unregulated workforce in recent years, even as patients are living longer with diseases that require increasingly complex care, such as dementia.

“(Those unregulated workers) receive the lowest wages in the health-care sector, are given variable and minimal formal training in (long-term care), and are rarely part of decision-making about care for residents,” reads the report, which notes that many of these workers report being overworked and suffering from high rates of burnout.

In contrast, the proportion of registered nurses has fallen, and many residents lack access to comprehensive care including medical, health and social services and therapies, even though the needs are greater than before.

The report notes that authorities have failed to listen to the voices of long-term care residents and those who care for them — both groups overwhelmingly composed of women. Women are also more likely to be the unpaid caregivers who are increasingly called upon to fill the gaps in the system, the authors said.

Long-term care homes were uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, combining an already-sick patient base with a novel disease to which nobody has immunity, the report says. Homes in Canada are often older and feature shared bedrooms and bathrooms, which made containing COVID-19 a challenge.

However, the report also notes that basic infection controls and personal protective equipment were often lacking and that many employees worked in multiple facilities, increasing the chances of spreading the virus.

“We have a duty to care and to fix this — not just to fix the current communicable disease crisis, but to fix the sector that enabled that crisis to wreak such avoidable and tragic havoc,” the authors wrote.

The report makes nine recommendations, which it says are geared towards addressing a workforce crisis that leaves homes understaffed and employees underpaid and overwhelmed.

The authors called on Ottawa to develop federal national standards for staffing and training, and to make provincial funding contingent upon meeting them.

The federal government should also ensure data is collected on resident quality of life, care standards and worker satisfaction and ensure it is analyzed by a third-party body, the report says. That data should also take into account disparities caused by race, ethnicity, gender identity, poverty and other vulnerabilities.

Provinces must “immediately implement appropriate pay and benefits, including sick leave, for the large and critical unregulated workforce of direct care aides and personal support workers” and offer them ongoing training and mental health support, the report’s authors said.

Unregulated staff should be offered full-time work, and provinces should evaluate “one workplace” policies that prevent employees from moving from site to site, the report concludes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

File Photo
Blackfalds RCMP seeking suspects in traffic collision

RCMP are asking the public for help identifing two suspects wanted for multiple offences

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Most Read