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New law gives seniors in care more say in their daily lives

A new law aimed at giving Alberta seniors in care and their families more say in their daily lives is now in effect, but some advocates worry it's not enough.

Residents can form councils to help advocate for themselves, but some worry it's not enough

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said new resident councils will give seniors more say in their living situation at long-term care facilities. (CBC)

A new law aimed at giving Alberta seniors in care and their families more say in their daily lives is now in effect, but some advocates worry it's not enough. 

As of April 1, residents and family members in all long-term care and supportive living centres can establish self-governing councils.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the goal is to provide residents with a forum to discuss things like social activities, food and laundry.

"These are some of the things that when you live on your own and you have your independence you can take for granted, but if you don't feel like your choices are being honoured in these areas it can definitely be frustrating," she said.

The councils, however, do not have a say in how care is administered or on staffing levels.

Advocate concerns

Ruth Adria, with Elder Advocates of Alberta, says that's a concern and that some in care are too afraid to speak up.

"You hear the incredible injustices that are going on in some of these elder care facilities and one of the major injustices is understaffing, and when you have understaffing you have warehousing," she said. 

Operators of facilities are required to send a representative to council meetings and to maintain documents showing resident and family member concerns, to prove that those concerns are taken into consideration. An information guide is also available for operators to "help clarify their responsibilities."

Facilities are subject to inspection and the status of a residential facility's compliance is posted on the Alberta Health Public Reporting website.

With files from Elissa Carpenter

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