OTTAWA – Residents should feel at home, respected and safe in long-term care, but the current reality doesn’t come close, says a survey that will inform new national standards of care.
The survey was conducted by the National Institute on Aging on behalf of the Health Standards Organization. It will shape the national standards that are being refreshed at the behest of the federal government.
Of the 16,093 respondents to the survey, 67.3 percent did not feel that long-term care homes in Canada provide safe, reliable and high-quality care.
The number was higher, 75.7 percent, for those who self-identified as family members, friends or unpaid caregivers to a long-term care resident.
Many long-term care homes were already struggling to provide basic care to residents when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada.
The virus had a devastating effect on an already troubled system.
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, about 69 percent of Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term care as of February 2021.
Work has already begun to refresh existing national standards for long-term care, with the first draft set to be released to the public early next year.
“The overwhelming majority of survey respondents reiterated the occasion that ensuring the provision of high-quality care within the LTC was the most important issue,” said the report, prepared by National Institute on Aging Research Fellow Ashley Flanagan.
In fact, they found it to be the minimum requirement.
Survey respondents also want to focus on resident quality of life which includes everything from the design of buildings to the food served and the community culture nurtured by the staff.
Respondents called for an open-door policy in private, comfortable places and for coming together with friends and family.
The survey also touched on the health, safety and job security of workers in long-term care homes. This means equal pay, benefits, pensions, paid time off and a clear focus on the well-being of employees.
People who responded to the survey said they would like to see the development of an independent regulatory body to ensure continuity of care across the country to ensure that the new standards work.
The results of the survey will be incorporated into the new long-term standards. After further public consultation, the technical committee will replace the old one next year.
About 99 percent of respondents felt that long-term care homes should be required to meet the new standards once finalized, although many warned that implementation should be accompanied by enforcement.
Right now, some provinces require homes to meet Health Standards Organization standards as a condition of their recognition, but not all.
The Canadian Standards Organization is also developing long-term care standards that will focus on infection protection and control in long-term care, including ventilation, plumbing, medical gas systems and the use of technology.
Federal Liberals promised to enact protection laws in long-term care as part of the party’s re-election campaign, but it is unclear whether the proposed legislation would make the standards mandatory.
If so, it would have to be negotiated with the provinces and territories, as long-term care is not a federal jurisdiction.