Kitchener-Waterloo

Report on long-term care in Ontario paints stark picture of stressed system

A recent report from the Ontario Health Coalition presented in Waterloo on Friday describes a long-term care system plagued by long wait times for beds, inadequate levels of care and escalating violence among residents and staff.

4-hour minimum care standard, increased funding among recommendations from Ontario Health Coalition

Maureen Edwards shared her daughter Tracy's experience in long-term care at a news conference with the Ontario Health Coalition in Waterloo on Friday. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Maureen Edwards' daughter Tracy was 43 when she was placed in a long-term care home.

Edwards, who lives in Baden, Ont. says Tracy struggled with addiction for many years and was hospitalized in St. Catharines after developing serious health problems.

"[The hospital] didn't think she'd be alive when we got there, but she was and she lasted 13 months after that," Edwards said.

Tracy stayed in hospital for six weeks but was later moved to palliative care in Fort Erie, before being transferred to a long-term care home in St. Catharines.

"It was such a pathetic home for anybody to have to live in," Edwards said. "It was not clean, it was dirty. The staff was friendly, but I don't even know if they were truly trained enough."

Edwards says Tracy would often complain about the food, which included "green jello on sandwiches" and hot dogs for multiple meals in a row.

The family tried to move Tracy to a facility closer to home in Waterloo region, but Edwards says they were unable to find a space before Tracy died of a heart attack.

Edwards shared her story in Waterloo on Friday, alongside members of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC).

The coalition recently released a report on the state of long-term care across the province, which describes a system plagued by long wait times for beds, inadequate levels of care and escalating violence among residents and staff.

"What we've seen is an offloading from hospitals of very complex levels of care," Jim Stewart, co-chair of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition, told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition.

"So the complex level of care that's now being offloaded into long-term care is the result of the cuts in our existing hospitals."

Stewart added that long-term care homes struggle to meet the needs of residents due to staffing shortages.

'It's not enough'

Jason Denault, a recreation programmer at Trinity Village Care Centre in Kitchener, says there is no standard for staffing facilities in Ontario.

Denault says at Trinity Village, there is one personal support worker for every seven and half residents during the day.

"I know there are homes that are 10 to 12 residents per one staff," he said. "It's not enough. We're forcing people to sit in soiled products, not being able to go to the washroom, just because they aren't enough hands on deck."

Jason Denault, a recreation programmer at Trinity Village Care Centre in Kitchener and UNIFOR Local 1106 member, says there is no standard for staffing levels in long-term care homes. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

The OHC has put forward several recommendations to improve the system, including increasing the number of long-term care beds and implementing a four-hour minimum standard of care.

Denault says the minimum standard would make a major difference for both residents and staff.

"That time is not there. I think the estimate is about 2.6 hours per day that a resident gets hands-on care," he said.

"More hands-on care will decrease the amount of violence, the amount of falls, the amount of aggression and behaviours that residents exhibit of a daily basis, because there's somebody there to sit with them."

More funding needed, OHC says

The OHC is also calling on the province to better fund hospitals, to prevent the offloading of patients with complex needs into long-term care.

Edwards says there needs to be a better solution for patients like her daughter, who at the time had infections in her heart, lungs and kidneys.

"We knew she wasn't going to make it, she was going to die, but she didn't deserve to get taken out of the hospital, maybe moved to another bed in the hospital if they needed the chronic care."

Edwards added patients who do require long-term care deserve to be placed in better homes, that are regularly inspected.

"If you're stuck to live in a home like that, you should have something to look forward to and it should be a decent meal and a clean bed."

About the Author

Robin De Angelis

Robin De Angelis is a multimedia journalist based in southwestern Ontario. She has previously worked as a reporter covering local news in Sudbury. Get in touch on Twitter @RobinElizabethD or by email robin.deangelis@cbc.ca

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