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“Intolerable” levels of violence and homicide spark renewed call for improved care standards in Ontario’s long-term care: new report
Toronto—In a Queen’s Park press conference today the Ontario Health Coalition launched a 30-community tour of a new report, “Situation Critical: Planning, Access, Levels of Care and Violence in Ontario’s Long-Term Care”. The report was inspired by increasingly frequent complaints by families and care workers of violence in long-term care homes (nursing homes). In its research, the Health Coalition found what it describes as “shocking” and “intolerable” levels of homicide, the extreme end of a “spectrum of violence that is escalating”. Almost 80,000 Ontarians reside in long-term care homes.
Among the key findings in the report:
There were 27 homicides in Ontario’s long-term care homes, according to the Ontario Coroner in the five years leading up to the report: a homicide rate that is 4-times that of Toronto and 8-times that of communities that are similarly-sized to Ontario’s long-term care home sector (80,000 people).
Resident-on-resident violence has increased since 2011 and staff injury rates in long-term care are among the highest of any industry in our economy.
Access to long-term care is poor, and even more difficult for equity-seeking groups.
By every measure the acuity, that is the complexity and heaviness of the care needs of the residents in long-term care has increased dramatically. This is a result of massive hospital cuts: Ontario has cut more hospital beds than any other province and is almost at the bottom of OECD rankings. As a result, today’s long-term care homes are yesteryear’s chronic care and psychogeriatric hospitals, but without the same resources.
In fact, long-term care beds are funded at 1/3 the rate of chronic care beds but house residents that used to be considered chronic care or psychogeriatric care. This shift is saving money at the expense of the health and safety of the vulnerable residents in long-term care and their care staff.
While acuity has skyrocketed hands on care levels have actually declined. The result is the escalating violence that we are witnessing.
“By any reasonable measure the twin issues of insufficient care and violence in Ontario’s long-term care have reached a level that can no longer be ignored,” she added. “Voluntary approaches to improving staffing are a proven failure. If you put your child into day care there is a staffing ratio: a limit on the number of children for each staff person. We are asking for the same thing: a minimum care standard that would guarantee a minimum average of 4-hours of hands on nursing and personal support for each resident, and we are insisting that this be a requirement that is enforced.”
“No one should have to go through what my mother and my family went through,” added Lance Livingstone, a senior himself, who struggled for months to find his mother a space in long-term care and was ultimately unsuccessful and she passed away. “The government has cut care and continues to ration it in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy. We can afford to provide decent long-term care for seniors and others who need it. The truth is families can’t afford to go without it.”
For more information: Devorah Goldberg, Research & Campaigns Director; Natalie Mehra, Executive Director.
A Slice of Life
by Nikki Rottenberg
A tale of a woman volunteering as a nurse in a war zone and an account of a mother whose children were kidnapped by her husband are just a few of the stories Burlington seniors tell in the book A Slice of Life. The book, which was written by local author Nikki Rottenberg features the true life stories of 26 Burlington seniors and is now available to the public.
Rottenberg, who has a background in social work and has been active on the City of Burlington Senior’s Advisory Committee, said the project got started just over a year ago when she approached Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Halton Chair Tom Carrothers and asked if there was a project she could undertake for seniors, particularly seniors in nursing homes.
“He told me to run with whatever I want. I had no idea what to do, but I am a writer and I love stories,” said Rottenberg.
“I decided to apply for a grant from the Province. I got that grant and I decided to interview 26 older adults all from Burlington so they could share a slice of their life’s story. I wanted to show people seniors have lives. That the older person you pass on the street has a story.”
Rottenberg approached numerous seniors on the street, at various cultural facilities and elsewhere and heard a variety of stories, which she catalogued in A Slice of Life.
She said one 85-year-old Burlington resident talked about how when she was younger her husband abducted her four children. “She shared the trauma of years of trying to get her kids back and not,” said Rottenberg. “Her life was just full of hope. Just an amazing story.”
One couple talked about the struggle they went through to have children; another talked about her experience of overcoming alcoholism; other shared stories of meeting the love of their life.