B.C.'s ombudsman has launched a widespread investigation into the quality of care for senior citizens in the province, prompted by the more than 50 complaints her office received this summer about seniors' care facilities and services across B.C.
Kim Carter said Thursday the complaints include neglect in care facilities, the separation of spouses, accessibility of services and the closure of some facilities.
"There has been an increase in the number of complaints that have come to our office from different parts of our province on a variety of issues," she told CBC News. "So it seems to me that it's a good time for us to be involved in it."
The ombudsman's office began receiving complaints in June after it invited the public to come forward with problems related to seniors' care, which comprises residential and assisted living faculties and home support services.
The investigation will examine various aspects of seniors' care such as standards of care in facilities and monitoring and enforcement of those standards, Carter said.
"It involves us looking at policies and procedures, going out to different parts of the province to talk to people involved in monitoring and enforcement [of] standards [and] visiting certain facilities to see how they operate," she said.
The investigation will also look at how information about care and services for seniors is provided to the public.
Abuse linked to financial cuts to senior care: group
The Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of B.C. said the investigation is "long overdue."
"We've had complaints for the last seven years about some of the abuse which is taking place in care facilities — both physical and mental," said council president Art Kube.
Cuts to the funding of seniors' homes and support services — and to the wages of the staff caring for seniors — have created a system prone to neglect and abuse, he said.
Kube said he hopes the ombudsman's investigation will address the issue of financing.
The potential vulnerability of seniors in care, their isolation and inability to speak for themselves provided some of the impetus for the current investigation, Carter said.
As part of the investigative process, the ombudsman's office has posted a questionnaire about seniors' care on its web site to which the public is encouraged to respond.