Long road ahead for senior care

Alberta has a long way to go when it comes to improving its long-term senior care facilities.

Alberta has a long way to go when it comes to improving its long-term senior care facilities.

Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher said while the situation has improved since the long-term care system was last audited in 2005, he has taken fi re at the monitoring methods used to ensure Alberta’s seniors are being properly cared for.

Methods used by Alberta Health Services to monitor senior care don’t go far enough and don’t cover all the bases, Saher said when he released his report. For example, inspections are announced months in advance and don’t include checking in to see if individual care plans for seniors are being followed.

Saher couldn’t be more right when he says there is still a long road to go when it comes to longterm senior care. If there aren’t even procedures in place to make sure the 14,000 seniors with care plans are having those plans followed, how can we even know AHS and the staff at these facilities are doing their jobs?

Such inspections also need to have more depth, inspectors need to speak with the actual residents of these long-term care facilities rather than sit in boardrooms reading policy binders as Saher said they are doing now. Follow ups also need to be put in place to make sure that any recommendations made as result of such inspections are adhered to.

It is important for Alberta to care for its seniors. They deserve the right to quality care.

In fact, they deserve it more than most. They have already put in their time working, raising families and improving our communities. They have more than earned the right to the best care possible.

Health Minister Stephan Mandel said that long-term care is at the top of his priority list and he has accepted all of Saher’s recommendations, including implementing drop-in surprise visits to inspect long-term care facilities. Mandel has also said a number of initiatives to improve that care will be announced next week.

Sounds like the government is on the right track, but don’t forget, this government is famous for improvements in baby steps, stopping frequently to celebrate their success and loudly boasting of their achievements. Mandel can’t afford to do this. Mandel and the rest of the Alberta government is still in the process of re-building our trust in the Tories.

If he really wants to show progress, he will continue improving this system without stopping to brag. Saher has said that Alberta has improved its long-term senior care services in the last decade. If that is really true, it’s time for the government to hunker down and build off that momentum and not stop to give themselves a pat on the back.