British Columbia

B.C. seniors' advocate says more needs to be done following landmark residential care survey

Findings presented Friday by Isobel Mackenzie after 22,000 residents from 292 residential care facilities were surveyed showed 62 per cent say they did not get a bath of shower as often as they want. One in four don't get assistance to go to the bathroom when required.

Isobel Mackenzie hopes staffing levels at facilities will increase supports for seniors

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie addresses a gathering in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, May, 21, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

British Columbia's seniors advocate says half the seniors living in provincial residential care facilities rate their quality of care as good or excellent but almost as many say they don't have any friends to do anything with in their facility.

Taken as a whole, we need to do better, and in some cases, much better- Isobel Mackenzi, B.C. Seniors' Advocate

Isobel Mackenzie released a landmark report Friday, billed as the largest survey of its kind in Canada of elderly people living in B.C.'s residential care facilities.

"You will read in the report of residents who are waiting too long to get the help they need, who are frustrated by the rigidity of fixed schedules and who want to have more to do and people they can talk to," she said.

The residential care survey conducted by volunteers for B.C. Seniors' Advocate looked at the experience of more than 22,000 individuals living in 292 residential care facilities in the province. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

She says the two-year project involved 22,000 people living in such facilities and makes eight recommendations after conducting thousands of interviews with seniors.


  • Increase staffing levels in care facilities.
  • Increase flexibility around when and how services and activities are delivered.
  • Increase activities for weekends and evenings.
  • Provide better physician care.
  • Examine opportunities to improve the meal time experience.
  • Provide ongoing education for all care stall on the importance of resident emotional well-being.
  • Do a follow up survey in two years.
  • Foster greater engagement with family members.

The survey was funded by the provincial government and residents were asked about aspects of their experience including food, personal hygiene, social life and access to physician care.

The results were mixed — while four out of 10 residents living in residential care said they did not want to be there, 77 per cent said that they would likely recommend their facility to others.

Forty-six per cent of residents report that there is no one living in the facility that they consider a close friend and 45 per cent report there is no one for them to do things with. (CBC News)

Mackenzie says many seniors say they want more flexibility in their lives, including less regulated meal times, improved activities and increased interactions with others.

The advocate says almost 90 per cent of those questioned feel safe and almost as many say they are treated with respect, but 60 per cent say they don't get to bathe as often as they'd like.

Mackenzie said there was serious room for improvement.

"The number one thing that stood out was the diversity of opinions — regardless of the question, regardless of the facility — some residents thought that things were really great, some residents thought that things were really bad," she said.

I didn't realize there was this level of dissatisfaction- Isobel Mackenzie

"However, within that context, I think for those of us who have read the results, some things did pop out as, oh my goodness, I didn't realize there was this level of dissatisfaction."

Access to bathroom facilities is an area of concern — one in four residents said they only sometimes, rarely, or never get help to the toilet when needed.

"We really need to do better than that," said Mackenzie.

More staff

Mckenzie says she hopes the survey will help bolster staffing levels.

In the spring, the provincial government announced it would spend $500 million to improve care for seniors, including increasing the direct services the elderly receive at residential care facilities.

"My expectation is that we will see a continued commitment to increased care staffing. We may see an acceleration at how quickly staffing levels are increased," she said.

"And I think there that there's going to be a discussion within the care community about these results and how we can improve things."

She hopes to review what progress is made on the recommendations in her report in two years.

With files from Michelle Ghoussoub and the Canadian Press