Federal Retirees is calling on all levels of government to collaborate on a national review of long-term care.
Older adult care: We need to do better
- COVID-19 and older adult care
- Transforming older adult care
- Federal Retirees’ vision for older adult care
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen outbreaks of the virus and deaths in many long-term care homes across the country as well as struggles to source personal protective equipment, implement safety protocols and maintain staffing levels in long-term care facilities. The military was even called in to provide support to the hardest-hit facilities and shocking military reports revealed deplorable conditions in some of these facilities. We also learned the shocking truth that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care.
Importantly, several governments and long-term care providers managed to curb the impact of the virus and remain relatively unaffected by rolling out new policies to reduce the spread of the virus, such as limiting visitors and requiring staff to work in only one facility. It is essential that we examine the things that went right, as well as what went wrong, and leverage these learnings to protect residents of these facilities in the future.
Just as it exposed and aggravated problems within the long-term care system, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected home and community care. Clients are experiencing reduced access to some services, like bathing and cleaning, which were – unbelievably – deemed non-essential.
Informal caregivers, who provide an estimated 80 per cent of community care and 30 per cent of care in institutions, have also taken on more during the pandemic. They are dealing with increased stress and additional duties all while respite care and other services they rely on are being cut back and governments are offering them virtually no support, financial or otherwise.
COVID-19 has drawn attention to the long-standing gaps in Canada’s older adult care. In doing so, it has provided us with a valuable opportunity.
Never has the public outcry for the terrible state of older adult care been so strong. Never has older adult care been such a priority for governments. It is crucial that we use this opportunity to rethink older adult care in Canada and make changes that will lead to a system that is more person-centered and incorporates best practices from around the world.
Transforming older adult care requires a different approach, with an emphasis on providing care at home and in the community so that Canadians can age in place. It also involves implementing national standards for long-term care, home care and other older adult care, to ensure a baseline level of quality care for older Canadians, regardless of where they live.
Governments – and likely the federal government – will need to enact laws that support this new direction. The Canada Health Act, which outlines Canada’s health-care framework, establishes criteria, conditions and funding related to insured health services. However, it focuses on hospitals and physicians, the services most Canadians needed when the legislation was drafted. Canada’s aging population means the needs of Canadians have changed, and our health-care framework must keep pace.
One of Federal Retirees’ key advocacy priorities is the implementation of a national seniors strategy. In its vision for a national seniors strategy, Federal Retirees advocates for quality and equitable health-care services for all older Canadians, and for policy, programs and services that allow older adults to age with dignity, in the place of their choosing.
Achieving this vision requires a national pivot from delivering care in institutional settings, like hospitals and long-term care, to providing these services in homes and communities. It will require resource and system shifts to move us toward an expansion of home and community care services, which are less costly, allow Canadians to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible and generally lead to better health outcomes and quality of life. To ensure quality and equitable care for all older Canadians, national standards for both long-term care and home and community care must be implemented.
In response to the devastating conditions in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Retirees is calling on all levels of government to collaborate on a national review of long-term care, with a focus on implementing a national framework for long-term care that ensures appropriate levels of funding; ties funding to national criteria and care standards; establishes a national health workforce planning strategy to ensure the right health-care workers are in the right place at the right time; and recognizes and supports informal caregivers who are crucial partners in delivering care to residents. Such a review must be public, independent, evidence-based and informed by older adults, informal caregivers, and subject-matter experts.