BY CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF
The plights of Ontario’s long-term senior care homes can often seem like distant problems for younger generations, or for those not directly affected. The reality, however, is that one way or another everyone will be affected, and according to the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS), if action isn’t taken soon, the quality of care in these homes will decline quickly.
“We simply do not have enough staff in our long-term care homes to provide both the quality of care and the level of care that we would like to provide, and that we think our residents deserve,” said Donna Rubin, the CEO of OANHSS during a presentation at the Fairview Mennonite Home in Cambridge Feb. 12.
The problem, according to OANHSS, is that the number of seniors needing placements in homes is rising along with the level of care requirements for people with special conditions, whereas the number of staff available in nursing homes to assist these people remains the same.
“At 3.4 hours per resident per day, current staffing levels continue to fall far short of the 4.0 hours per resident per day recommended in a 2008 report on staffing in long-term care homes,” said Rubin in a release provided by OANHSS.
Without proper staffing, patients in nursing homes have been suffering, and will continue to do so. The inadequate number of staff on hand means that every person receiving care has to be treated less like a human being and more like a process. Every staff member must rush through his or her routines to move on to the next patient because they are constantly needed, and this means that the one person who many people in long-term care homes see each day is unable to treat them like the person that they are because they simply don’t have the time.
According to Rubin, the solution to this problem lies in the hands of the provincial government.
“We want to see, and call on the government to put more money, more funding in this provincial budget into long-term care so that we can have more frontline staff: nurses, personal support workers, more boots on the floor to deliver care,” Rubin said.
Jim Williams, the administrator of the Fairview Mennonite Home, also spoke during the presentation, and gave perspective of what this problem looked like on the ground level.
“In February of last year … 47 of the residents (out of the 84) at that time needed extensive (staff) help to go to the bathroom … Today, it’s 55 residents out of the 84. That is a change of eight … So, that is eight more residents that the same number of staff that we had a year ago, with the same number of hours to do the work, have to take to the bathroom every day before breakfast,” Williams said.
This was just one example of how things are becoming more difficult across Ontario for those involved in the care of seniors. Every time the staff in these homes become further limited, the quality of care subsequently suffers.
Long-term care staff feel that they are further hindered by the sheer amount of paperwork that follows every procedure. The Long-Term Care Homes Act that was introduced in 2007 tightened a lot of regulations regarding the care of seniors in Ontario. Homes like Fairview are visited by provincial inspectors who ensure the act is adhered to for the safety of patients. For those on the home level of this, however, it feels like they are drowning in documents.
“We are not micro-managed, we are micro-regulated … The government has gone too far with its regulations. Everything has to be written down,” Williams said.
The request by OANHSS, representing the non-profit sector, to reach the average of four hours per resident per day over the next three years will cost an additional $385 million.
This request is not a new one. According to Rubin, this problem has been years in the making and the cry for help has been made before.
Multiple conferences have been held by OANHSS in the hopes of improving the understanding of the problem at hand. During the Feb. 12 conference, Williams asserted his hopes that the message that OANHSS has been spreading would eventually reach the provincial government, and that it would have a positive effect on the current state of long-term care.
“I hope that our remarks … have helped you, and residents and families, even the public and eventually our government, to have a better understanding of this need, and to respond positively to it,” Williams said.