Hospital overcrowding and a shortage of long-term beds are forcing patients in need of care back into the community.

Patients who want to apply for long-term care are often given misleading information by hospitals and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) says Jane Meadus, a lawyer and institutional advocate with the Toronto-based Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

"Because the hospitals are so overcrowded, [health care staff] are trying so hard to get people out of hospital, and unfortunately they sometimes do that at the cost of people, especially seniors, because they see them as the problem," Meadus says.

"Of course, the problem is not enough long-term care beds, not the seniors themselves."

Many patients and their families are told they can't apply for a long-term bed while they're in the hospital or that they need hospital approval to apply.

But Meadus says LHINs are required by the Long Term Care Homes Act to take an application for a long-term bed upon request, whether the patient is in hospital or not.

'Cookie cutter approach' doesn't work for every patient

Jane Meadus

Jane Meadus says it's important for people to know their rights when applying for long-term care so that they can advocate for themselves or their loved one. (CBC)

The North East LHIN says the province has adopted a 'home first' approach to long-term care, which encourages patients to return to the community before they make life-changing decisions about long-term care.

Meadus argues that this philosophy is a "cookie cutter approach" to long-term care that doesn't always work.

"It gets translated into a rigid system [where] everyone has to go home," she says. "Really what it is, is 'get out of the hospital' in a lot of cases."

At the end of the day, Meadus says many families do choose to leave the hospital once they've had a chance to learn about all of their options and make an informed decision.

"We're not advocating for everyone to stay in the hospital, but what we are advocating is that people need to know all of their rights."