Families hiring own staff to guard nursing home residents

A growing number of Ottawa families are hiring staff to protect their loved ones from being attacked by other residents in their long-term care homes, according to a local advocacy group.

Staff shortages, dementia contributing to violence in long-term care homes, advocates say

Ottawa Health Coalition co-chair Al Dupuis, left, and Grace Welch, chair of the Champlain Region Family Council Network's advocacy committee, show off the coalition's report on violence in the province's long-term care homes, titled 'Situation Critical.' (Jean Delisle/CBC)

A growing number of Ottawa families are hiring staff to protect their loved ones from being attacked by other residents in their long-term care homes, according to a local advocacy group.

"A lot of families are paying for extra care when they aren't able to be with their loved ones because of their concern that another resident might hit them," said Grace Welch, chair of the Champlain Region Family Council Network's advocacy committee.

The systemic neglect of those residents in long-term care has to change.- Grace Welch, Champlain Region Family Council Network

Welch said she knows of families who have invested a "substantial amount of money" to hire workers to watch over their relatives. That's in addition to the monthly fee they pay to have their loved ones in long-term care.  

Welch made the comments as the Ontario Health Coalition stopped in Ottawa to show off its report on violence in nursing homes.

'Situation Critical'

According to the report, titled "Situation Critical," there were at least 27 homicides in Ontario's long-term care homes between 2012 and 2016, based on data from the Ontario coroner.

The most recent provincial data indicates resident-on-resident abuse more than doubled over six years, from 1,580 incidents in 2011 to 3,238 in 2016.  

Ottawa has also seen several high-profile incidents of staff abusing residents at long-term care facilities. 

Welch, whose mother is in a long-term car home, pointed out the abuse can sometimes go the other way, too.

"I also want to emphasize that staff are abused all the time by residents," she said. "They are hit, they are spit on and kicked and they are called horrible names. I've seen that violence and it's an everyday occurrence.  

'People are suffering neglect,' said the Ottawa Health Coalition's Al Dupuis, left. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Dementia, staff shortages also factors

The rising rates of dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairment is a contributing factor to the rise in violence, advocates say.

According to the Ontario Health Coalition report, staff shortages only add to the problem.

"We don't have staff to turn them as often as they should so they don't get bedsores, or to spend the time feeding them," said Al Dupuis, the co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition. "People are suffering neglect, and I'm sure there's a level of frustration and despair, so people lash out at residents and staff."

Dupuis and Welch are frustrated that the Time to Care Act wasn't passed under Ontario's previous Liberal government. It called for a minimum standard of four hours of combined nursing and personal support care each day for residents in long-term care homes in Ontario.  

Welch said despite the best efforts of staff at the region's 60 long-term care homes, they nearly all fall short of that target.

"The systemic neglect of those residents in long-term care has to change," she said.


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