Long Term Care Homes

A few years ago my father-in-law was a resident in a local, well known long-term care home. This was when homes were better funded and unlike today (thank you Mike Harris), the home was non-profit. He was recovering from a series of minor strokes, had Parkinson’s disease, was incontinent and while he could walk around, had been reduced to a child-like state.

My elderly and disabled mother-in-law visited him daily and it was soon obvious that there was a disquieting and sinister undercurrent running through the place. Many of the residents were physically disabled – victims of strokes or accidents and they and their relatives lived in fear of retaliation by staff if they spoke out about conditions in the home. My MIL discovered that at mealtimes, residents would be served and the meal would often be untouched after 30 minutes when it would be removed. Like several others, she ended up hiring an attendant to feed her husband so that he wouldn’t die of starvation.

At the home, staff had somehow persuaded management that uniforms were authoritarian and intimidating, so they wandered around indistinguishable from visitors. Residents would be left in soiled diapers for hours and changed grudgingly as if it was a great favour. Many residents were tied to their chairs so they wouldn’t be a nuisance between mealtimes. I was drafted to write letters, put on a suit and do battle with management (several times) and things slowly improved for my FIL. Sadly, few others had relatives who could or would do this. In those days, the only alternative, home care, was even less adequate than it is today.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and behold the sight of Premier Ford blinking  with emotion and surprise that the Canadian Armed Forces had reported squalid conditions and seemingly criminal neglect in the care homes where they had been assigned.

Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton seems equally bemused but that’s better than admitting that the reason might be that the Ford government reduced funding and inspections (an average home can now expect a full inspection once every 100 years). Add to that years of neglect by governments of all parties and long term care residents were sitting targets. Upwards of 80% of Ontario Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes. The highest rates have been in homes that were for profit. This was largely due to a lack of direction from Minister Fullerton and the systemic exploitation of low-paid agency workers, forced  to work in several locations in order to make a living.

Health Minister (and former Long Term Health Care Minister) Christine Elliott claims to know nothing about long term care home conditions but she may have a short memory.

The Feds no doubt are secretly pleased that the Army embarrassed Ford but they’ve got skin in the game.

There’s no shortage of blame to go round. Read about the Armed Forces report here and the actual document here.

Ford will resist holding an inquiry or changing the legislation. He’ll hope that the heat will die down and the public will be satisfied with a few dramatic band-aid gestures.

That won’t cut it.

If we’re stuck with private companies running long term care homes for a profit, there should be strong legislation to safeguard residents including standards of care, staffing levels, supervisory community involvement and rigorous, frequent, meaningful inspections.

Let’s see if Premier Ford’s tears are real or theatrical.

9 thoughts on “Long Term Care Homes”

  1. Excellent article. Conditions in the nursing /retirement has been unacceptable for a long time. As a senior myself I pray that I will never have to go into one

  2. Yes, good & welcome perspectives & insights.

    Politics aside, I don’t doubt the Premier’s unsettled demeanour to be anything less than genuine. After all, it’s clearly an embarrassment (or should be) for anyone in a position of authority – political or managerial, in any one of these 600+ facilities, province wide.

    And, the military only reported on what they witnessed, in 5 facilities.

    Just imagine.

    And yes, it’s understood that Ford’s family also has an elder in a residence, locally.

    He may be less than thespian when reading his scripts, but when he let’s his hair down, his intensity and “sensitivity” has touched many across the land, where few gave him little respect in other provinces, too.

    We’ll see, down the road.

    We also had two elders in neighbouring long term residences – then known ironically as Leisure World, at both ends of this area.

    And, for the most part because of our proximity, someone was able to visit daily, to see how they were doing.

    Not easy when you’ve worked a lengthy day – with more to come – and you could use a battery recharge. But, you ate on the fly and looked forward to a good night’s sleep, when able

    Anecdotally, visiting daily was most helpful because not only did we visit our elders and spend some amount of “quality time” daily, we soon developed relationships with the staff who soon got to know us all, too.

    Plus, where possible we could chip in and attend to just about anything that didn’t require specific “health care” skills. We could see that it was appreciated by both parent and professional care givers, alike.

    In fairness, a bond or trust of sorts develops – showing that we didn’t just farm out the responsibility to someone collecting a wage, no matter the compensatory arrangement. And then, arrogantly expecting them to move heaven & earth because we “paid the piper”.

    In our case, not everyone in the immediate family lived in the nearby area. And consequently, couldn’t just jump in the car to visit at all hours of any given day.

    So, some of us locally had extra attentive duties – trusting that it would somehow, balance out amongst us.

    There’s no guarantee that it will be fair & equitable, even amongst family.

    Not surprised, I know.

    Nevertheless, these elders were the very people that hopefully, tried their level best to look after our young, smelly butts as we grew older.

    And so, now it was time to reciprocate, as best we could as younger members of the family – despite having to consider and juggle our own children, careers, homes and health, day by day.

    Plus, it’s not surprise that many of those ailing, elders helped & played willingly with our children/their grandchildren, too.

    Point being (and again, personal politics aside), clearly there’s plenty of blame to go ‘round – at all levels, private & public.

    If you’re fair, and take a good long hard look around you’re likely to see that there are those among us who would readily take something off the table, but never reciprocate and give back honestly, with an effort or with a careful, helping hand.

    What’s perhaps worse, is when someone (in the trade) in clear conscience – signs off on “a job well done”, when it’s clearly not true.

    In future, and if nothing else we could use more frequent visits from immediate “family & friends” to keep everyone honest while our elders are write their last chapters.

    Add to that, proper unannounced inspections of these long term sites by those who would join Sunshine lists!

    If we were paying proper attention, pretty sure we’d have lost our collective cool much sooner if it were our little ones were being abused & neglected by ANY type of care giver, private or public.

    Thanks, Roy.
    Good job.

  3. hey! i was wondering why in an article ( that was well written ) you said theres no fear of guns in weston. in the last year i know 4 people shot in weston, there was a near mass shooting at a bar the red room at jane and lawrence where 3 were shot, 2 died. plus we have all heard abotu the shooting in mcdonalds parking lot, the one at jane and queens infront of Georges, the one at king and weston where a house was fired on, plus how ever many others dont break the news.
    Weston is becoming so dangerous it is unreal. cbc ranks weston in top 10 worst crime areas in 6 out of 10 groups. please feel free to email me 🙂

    1. Bryan, I don’t think I said that there was no fear of guns in Weston. Sadly, there’s a great deal of fear of guns in Weston, much of it misplaced.
      You’ll have to name the original article as I’m not sure which one you’re referring to. What I probably said was that the fear of crime is overblown and that the greatest risk of death came from traffic (in those busy pre-Covid days).
      I’d also like to see the article where the CBC ranks Weston in the top ten crime areas – we’re really not that bad.
      Crime is everywhere in a big city but Toronto is surprisingly safe – even for Canada. We are orders of magnitude safer than many cities in the U.S.
      Look at this recent article from Macleans: https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-safest-and-maybe-most-honest-places-to-live-in-canada/
      My best advice is still to be careful when crossing the road.

  4. How ‘bout that “Wild West shootout”..
    .. on Blue Jays Way & King?

    Not that close to Weston, right?

    But, still the same kinds of bad actors, and they’re everywhere.

    Now, adding PPE to their workwear! (As though these street savvy “citizens” needed more helpful accessories to ply their trade.)

    And, continue to be coddled as we struggle to find a way to deal with this judiciously – while painting circles in the parkland & extending bike routes.

    Where do we go from here?

    In the meantime, look both ways, don’t forget to distance, wash your hands and wear a helmet!

    1. That is exactly one of my points that is a HUGE tourist area and had an extreme amount of coverage, along with the one on the danforth. I’m have never said shootings dont happen everywhere. What I am saying is Weston has so many shootings there was a MASS shooting in a bar that barely broke the news.

      1. Bryan, are you referring to this incident at Jane and Lawrence last November? This was covered by several news outlets.

        I don’t know if it qualifies as a mass shooting but it’s not what we want in Weston and no doubt a deeply unpleasant experience for innocent bystanders not to mention the victims.

        Whereby we come to another useful tip if you’re concerned with keeping safe. Avoid bars after 1:00 am and you’ll generally be ok. Especially those where you wouldn’t take a date.

        The sad reality is that crime and traffic collisions can occur anywhere in our city. You should know that in several lifetimes you’ll likely never be hit by a car or shot in a bar but there are ways to minimize (or maximize) your risk.
        Me, I’m tucked in bed with a cocoa before 1:00 a.m. If someone wants to run me over or involve me in a mass shooting, they’ll have a much tougher job.

  5. Bottom line:
    (on ALL these issues of concern)

    Be vigilant, be more mindful..
    and in regards to “gangster dramas”, keep your head on a swivel & continue honing your “street savvy” skills – everywhere you go.

    After all, the “bad guys” circulate everywhere and never stop learning how to maneuver and manipulate the rules of engagement. So, makes sense for the “good guys” to raise their game, too.

    Stay aware, stay safe, stay vigilant.
    And, “when going through hell, keep going.”

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