“Extreme Neglect”, “Heart Breaking”, “Gut Wrenching”, “Nauseating”: these responses to the LTC Military Report are, sadly, nothing new to caregivers, families, and seniors’ advocacy groups. We have all seen, heard of, or experienced the passing of a loved one in a seniors’ care home. We are not surprised that nearly 82% of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care homes, but the deaths in these homes are merely the tip of the iceberg.
When the provincial government wants to reduce its expenditures, it looks at cutting funding to the Ontario health care system, the largest budget envelope. Ageism then allows, even encourages, us to prioritize younger patients with acute conditions over older folk with increasingly complex chronic conditions.
Instead of wringing our hands in outrage (again), let’s look at alternatives. Better quality and improvements to home and community care can keep seniors safely in their homes and out of more costly institutions, such as nursing homes and hospitals.
In Ontario, care for most seniors is delivered at home and with community-based support. Let’s not be consumed by the flashier statistics (LTC homes) and forget the situation in home and community care. This sector is also suffering, if less dramatically, from some of the same problems as LTC homes – shortages of qualified staff, who endure precarious employment, as well as lack of personal protective equipment and clear infection control guidelines – guidelines much needed given the less than perfect conditions in some homes.
Ontario’s senior citizens need decisive action. We already have more than enough information to correct this sad situation and re-orient long-term care.
What exactly are we waiting for?