My heart sunk when the news of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes broke. For healthcare workers, residents and their families this is the saddest news imaginable.
Tragically, it’s taken a pandemic to bring the horrific conditions in some long-term care homes to the surface. As always, there are calls for heads to roll, investigations to happen, and not surprisingly, promises for change.
But for those of us with loved ones who have been unfortunate enough to need a nursing home will tell you, the problems and care roadblocks go back for years. Many families, mine included, will attest to the fact that the system has been underfunded and broken for a long, long time.
We’ve lost the plot so, as we try to pick up the pieces, lets consider:
1. More doctors in LTC
This is a high-risk population—we need more family doctors and geriatricians on the job 24/7. PSWs and nurses lack appropriate supports necessary to provide top quality care. In many cases, the responsibilities they carry on a daily basis are often too great.
2. Upgrading the inspection system
Cleanliness, medication and continence management, provision of healthy food and infrastructure management have been poor in a lot of homes for decades. Lets raise the standards and increase spot checks.
3. Tight budgets and profits
Stretched administrators need to run a profitable operation while dealing with union demands and staffing shortages. They’re juggling care, food, activity costs with the need to pay for leaking roofs and new laundry machines. Our loved ones’ care needs to be prioritized.
4. Call in the Ombudsman
Powerless residents, often voiceless family councils and frustrated relatives have no system for voicing official, track-able and enforceable. It’s time for better oversight!
5. Weak associations
Stale industry associations, funded by member homes focus on lobbying, attracting industry sponsors and competing with each other, instead of customer service and patient care. Let’s get one national body that has some teeth.
It’s taken a pandemic to bring LTC in this country to its knees. Lets fix it and, while we’re at it, let’s improve home care for seniors too. That system’s also broken.