GORE BAY—The signs held by some of the residents of the Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home said it all, “More staff for long term care homes,” “I am valuable-don’t forget me,” and “Two out of three long term care residents have dementia-we need help.” The Lodge hosted a Better Seniors Care Campaign open house last Friday with guests MPP Michael Mantha and Emily Weber of the Alzheimer’s Society on hand.
The campaign’s main priorities include making LTC homes safer and more modern, giving seniors outside of urban centres equal access to services and adopting a more predictable funding approach, enhancing support for specialized resources.
“I would like to welcome everyone to the Manitoulin Lodge first open house event,” stated Chantelle Taylor, resident and family services coordinator, last Friday. “We would especially like to welcome our MPP Michael Mantha and Emily Weber, a representative of the Alzheimer’s Society, for being here today.
Lee Turley, administrator of the Lodge ,also welcomed everyone on hand and said the open house was being held to bring awareness, “of the Better Seniors Care Campaign we are involved in with the Ontario Long Term Care Association.”
“What is the Better Seniors Care Campaign?” said Ms. Taylor. “In 2014 the Ontario Long Term Care Association launched Better Seniors Care, a community based advocacy campaign which focused on raising awareness of the needs of seniors and the challenges the long-term care sector is facing. Although the campaign has been invigorated on an annual basis, the goal has always been to show Ontario’s political leaders that long-term care is a priority for all Ontarians.”
The issue at hand is that residents are more frail and complex the audience was told. “The majority of LTC residents need help with activities of daily living,” said Ms. Taylor. “Increased needs are accompanied by a need for more staff, skills, and resources. Did you know that one in three residents are highly or completely dependent on staff?”
Ms. Taylor explained that statistics from 2009-2010 were compared to those from 2014-2015 and they showed increases of 6.1 percent of LTC individuals requiring assistance, 6.1 percent with transfers, 7.2 percent with personal hygiene, 8.9 percent with toilet use and 11.6 percent in bed mobility.
Ms. Taylor said, “seniors in Ontario’s LTC homes must be better supported by the health system. The sector is doing its part, but anticipated growth in demand means we have to enhance our approach today to make sure we have a system we can count on tomorrow. The OLTCA’s plan presents solutions that can improve the foundation of the sector and sustain it moving forward. We’re calling for more resources to support residents with dementia and to ensure homes with physically outdate infrastructure improved.”
Priority 1 is making LTC homes safer and more modern, the open house was told. “Nearly half of Ontario’s LTC homes (about 30,000 beds) were built to design standards dating back to 1973 and need significant renovations or to be rebuilt for reasons of safety and security for both residents and staff; privacy and dignity; provision of ‘home-like’ amenities; improvement of fire sprinklers and other safety mechanisms; infection prevention and control; and better containment of outbreaks,” said Ms. Taylor. “New/renovated homes have larger rooms and generous common areas, offering more privacy; there are no more three or four bedroom accommodations; we need a more robust renewal program with adequate capital funding,” continued Ms. Taylor. “Nearly half of Ontario’s 630 LTC homes require significant renovations or to be rebuilt in order to meet current design standards and offer greater comfort and safety.” Many of these homes are found in the small and rural communities.
A second priority is to give seniors outside of urban centres equal access to services.
“Last year our sector supported more than 100,000 seniors and yet over 20,000 remained on the wait list,” noted Ms. Taylor. “In many communities, particularly those where there aren’t any other service options, there aren’t enough long-term care beds to meet the demand. People are being forced to leave their home communities in search of care and we need to change that.”
“We need to add more beds to the system now, to meet the present and future demand,” said Ms. Taylor. “Development charges are also impeding some homes from renewing-in some cases $35,000 per bed is being charged for new construction.”
There needs to be a predictable funding approach from the province, Ms. Taylor told the audience. “Funding for care hasn’t kept pace with increasing needs of residents. On top of this, operational costs to run homes continue to rise. The province sets the current funding environment for Ontario’s long-term care sector, and does so exclusively.”
Funding decisions for operational items are made at a political level, typically six months into the calendar year, making it very challenging for homes to budget accordingly, the meeting was told.
“Adopting a more predictable approach to funding will contribute to greater stability for all homes, while supporting efforts to continue to enhance resident care sector-wide,” said Ms. Taylor. “Long-term care homes and the government have invested in programs, and training to help long-term care staff learn behaviour management strategies for dementia-related symptoms.”
“A provincial program called Behavioural Supports Ontario is showing excellent results,” continued Ms. Taylor. “BSO teams help each resident find meaningful activities that draw on their strengths and abilities, reducing their distress and responsive behaviours. Currently, some homes have in-house BSO while others have mobile BSO supports,” she said, pointing out the “Ontario (LTC) Care Association is urging the government to fund an in-home BSO team in every home in the province and we firmly believe that this is far more necessary than adding minimum staffing ratios.”
Ms. Taylor encouraged everyone to learn more about the OLTCA Action Plan for Better Seniors Care at www.BetterSeniorsCare.ca. “You can also help us make change happen by signing our petition located in the front foyer, or by signing online demanding that long-term care be a priority in the next provincial election.”
Mr. Mantha said, “I do listen to your concerns, and I do enjoy visiting your home. And I enjoy discussions with residents and staff when I am here. I agree with the concerns that have been raised here today, for instance the need for more staff. The people that work here pride themselves on the services they provide but there is a need for more hours and funding to be provided for long term care homes, so even more care can be provided, including BSO workers.”
“What needs to be done is to make sure your home has the resources that are needed for all residents here,” stated Mr. Mantha. “Last week in Sault Ste. Marie I met with the Alzheimer’s and dementia support groups who are pushing the government to put more dollars into preventive care. Identifying Alzheimer’s and dementia at the start extends to a healthy life.”
“And the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario are delivering the same messages you are giving,” said Mr. Mantha. “The message is the right one, and by holding this type of open house it gets me fired up to deliver these messages at Queen’s Park, which I will be doing.”