Housing consultant horrified, but not shocked as long-term care teeters toward collapse

I am horrified and saddened by the situation in our long-term care facilities. But I am not in the least bit shocked. For those of us working with frail seniors needing full care, we were fully aware of the ever present staff shortage. What kept this system going was the many residents who had private caregivers or family members helping care for them.

A client recently asked me what the staff ratio to patient is in a CHSLD. I could not find the answer. All senior residences, CHSLD, assisted living (RI), and autonomous, need government certification to operate. There are certain rules but certainly not enough. It is not just about passing the fire safety requirements, call bells (which many residents are unable to use due to cognitive or physical impairment), we need mandatory staffing ratios, mandatory and continued training and proper supervision by the government agencies, for both private and public senior facilities. Complaints need to be taken more seriously. I remember filing a complaint in a government run facility for a loved one. I received a letter explaining what the staff felt occurred and that certain issues would be further looked into. Was I satisfied? Absolutely not! Did I take it further, no. However I did remove my loved one from the facility. I had no faith in their ability to provide proper care. I often encourage clients to file complaints, ask to see incident reports, ask for case conferences etc. Most clients do not want to upset the apple cart.

As soon as Legault announced that no visitors or caregivers would be allowed to enter the care facilities, I knew that we were sitting on a time bomb. My heart broke for the families who were unable to be with their loved ones who were very ill, for those elders who died alone. It is just heartbreaking. Without private caregivers to care for their patients, feeding and cleaning them, it was clear that there would not be enough staff to provide even minimal care.

Yes, of course, there needed to be rules about who could enter and safety precautions. But to close facilities to all caregivers was careless, which we all now understand. It is not just the Herron that has all the media attention. It is an issue in many of long-term care facilities. And this is not a new problem.

Let’s spend less energy on the finger pointing and do whatever is necessary to care for these frail and sick seniors. A criminal investigation will hopefully discover and reveal the truth.

I hope that assisted living (RI) residences will not be the next crisis as residents in some places mingle with each other in dining rooms, common areas etc. There are staff coming and going, many taking public transportation etc, and the virus can easily be introduced into these type of residences. Is there CiUSS staff checking on all residences?

Why aren’t guidelines put into place for all residences to follow? And they should be monitored. In some facilities residents are confined to their rooms. Other small ones have looser standards. Legault is sitting on another time bomb if problems happen in residences that offer less care.

Why do people living in condos have stricter rules than those living in senior residences? We are told not to have visitors. Are entertainers coming into residences? We have no way of knowing how residences are protecting their residents.

Ironically, there will be no waiting list for long term care if this continues. It’s a sad turn of events.

This is not the way to fix a broken system.

Bonnie Sandler, a retired social worker, is a housing consultant for seniors and residential real estate broker.

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