As a longtime researcher of the health and social impacts of dementia, I keep a constant, close eye on what governments do to support the 500,000 Canadians living in residential care facilities and the 7.8 million family caregivers. Am. Or should I say, which governments do not.
So far during this election campaign, I have seen little to inspire hope that any party leader recognizes the needs of seniors in care, 87 percent of whom are cognitively impaired, or have families that give them time and money. give energy.
Let’s not forget that in the first wave of COVID-19, Canada accounted for 81 percent of all COVID-19 deaths (the highest proportion of LTC COVID-19 deaths in the world) and long-term care (LTC) residents accounted for tens of thousands of deaths. Thousands were left to suffer in isolation, for months on end. Couldn’t the federal election agenda include a policy ensuring access for LTC residents to families as essential visitors?
Families as essential caregivers
Along with loneliness, illness, and death, COVID-19 has drawn attention to the important role that family members play in helping people in long-term care. Most of the caregivers are women, who bear the brunt of the government’s negligence at the cost of their mental and physical health as they provide “free” care to their elderly loved ones, mostly women. Why isn’t easing their burden, and their mothers and grandmothers who need care, a major stage item for our famous feminist prime minister?
The commonly cited national benchmark for quality long-term care is just over four hours a day of direct care per resident. The provincial average varies with New Brunswick being the lowest at just 3.1 hours. British Columbia uses a target of 3.36 hours per day, and Manitoba averages 3.6. Family caregivers pick up the slack.
Family caregivers may come for several hours per day to make necessary contributions, including assistance with walking or mobility, psychosocial support (such as taking the senior outside to prevent social isolation) and personal care, including bathing. May include helping with grooming, feeding and dressing. .
Read more: Long-term care after the COVID-19 disaster: 3 promising ways to move forward
Families also help with housekeeping, invite loved ones to visit and do personal laundry. In fact, these essential care partners contribute up to $66.5 billion annually to unpaid care of patients in hospital, long-term care, group care settings, and home care.
In Ontario, a third of LTC residents don’t even have the comparable luxury of family help: they depend on employees for their basic needs. As we heard through the media during the pandemic, residents whose families are not present – and they were all months – do not receive the best care from overburdened workers, who have an annual turnover rate of over 400 percent.
Disappointed on party platform LTC
It’s frustrating to read the platforms of the major parties on long-term care issues. The Liberal Party promises an hourly wage of $25 and to ensure that 50,000 more workers are hired and trained. This fast is based on the need to attract more workers at a minimum wage (now an average of $17 an hour). Conservatives say they will promote careers through immigration, which is not new. The NDP says it will improve working conditions for employees but gives no specifics.
Liberals and conservatives both pledge $3 billion to fix LTC homes, and both sides say they will use the tax credits to encourage seniors to stay in their homes. The NDP says it will eliminate not-for-profit long-term care, which will, in effect, increase the quality and safety of care for residents.
Read more: We must stop profiting from child care and elder care
A recent analysis by the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicates that one in nine people in long-term care in 2018-19 could potentially be cared for at home. It might be a better option, but where would the support be? Conservatives say they will pay families $200 a month to care for elders in their homes. When caregivers’ lives and savings are taken over by the daily demands of helping their loved ones, this amount may not start to make a meaningful difference.
The Canadian Health Coalition argues that a national senior care strategy is needed to establish “consistent standards of funding, care and staffing levels in federal, provincial and regional jurisdictions”.
LTC homes in Canada are funded and administered through a mix of private for-profit, private non-profit and publicly owned facilities. Public-owned care homes have better quality of care (as measured by higher staffing levels and fewer transfers to emergency departments) and yet account for only 46 percent of LTC facilities in Canada. One out of three facilities is for-profit; Taking that advantage out would increase the quality.
We spend billions on care homes (ironically not many names are care-focused), public and private, where no one wants to end up. Canadians who have spent their lives contributing to this country with their work, taxes and community activities deserve more at the end of their lives than to be considered a drain on the public purse.
We need higher national standards for long-term care under the Canada Health Act, which currently only covers hospital and doctor services. There is a need for national standards to ensure the entitlement of always essential visitors to LTC homes for senior citizens, even in a pandemic.
When no other real support is available, tax credits, token payments and aspirational terms do not cut it. We need equal access and quality in long-term care across the country. We need the political will and leadership to do this and put seniors, caregivers and workers at the ethical and operational center of long-term care. This will get my vote.