CARP Says New Federal Standards Should Improve Life for Seniors in Long-Term Care
The federal government unveils national standards to improve the safety and quality of life for seniors living in residential care. Photo: TommL/Getty Images
In response to the tragic death tolls that occurred in too many long-term care homes during the worst days of the pandemic, the federal government has finally unveiled its package of national standards it hopes will improve the safety and quality of life for seniors living in residential care.
“These standards are an important step in helping to ensure quality care for seniors and will raise the bar for safe and respectful care in LTC homes across Canada,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at a press conference in Ottawa Monday.
The need for national guidelines came after the long-term care industry was completely overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many homes simply unable to meet the challenges of providing adequate staffing or preventing the spread of infection of the deadly virus.
In many instances, residents were locked into their rooms and family members were not allowed to visit. In Ontario and Quebec, the situation became so dire that the army was called in to help run the beleaguered homes.
The virus caught nursing homes completely unprepared and as a result, more than 16,000 seniors died in long-term care. Canada had one of the worst records in the world in protecting its most vulnerable members from the virus.
Experts feel many of these deaths could have been avoided if proper procedures had been in place.
“If these standards were in place before, I believe we would not be leading the world in having the worst performance in long-term care. I think, frankly, we would have been one of the best,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatric doctor from Toronto and chair of the Health Standards Organization (HSO) that developed the recommendations.
Bill VanGorder, COO of CARP (an affiliate of ZoomerMedia) called the announcement of national standards in long-term care “a great step forward” saying that it should help “improve the safety and wellness of those living in residential care.”
He says the new standards cover more than just preparing for the next threat of infection but cover important measures like staff shortages, fall prevention, meal flexibility. And, importantly, it mandates that all services be delivered according to the residents’ needs.
However, VanGorder is concerned that the HSO standards might not carry “sufficient weight” because they are voluntary instead of mandatory — meaning that nursing homes can choose whether to follow them or not.
Ontario’s long-term care minister Paul Calandra has already expressed hesitancy about whether or not his province will adopt the federal guidelines, suggesting that they might “water down the very high standards that Ontario has put in place with the fixing Long Term Care Act. Despite Calandra’s comments, VanGorder says CARP will “urge all the provinces to adopt and enforce” the federal standards.