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HomeNewsBC Seniors Advocate says improved meal options, social connections needed at long-term...

BC Seniors Advocate says improved meal options, social connections needed at long-term care homes

Over half of long-term care residents and their families who took park in a recent survey rated the care and services they receive as excellent.

That’s according to the Office of the BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

While she admits some people are happy with the level of care, others are not suggesting an increase in care hours is in order as the national standard has jumped to 4.1 hours per person each day as the new minimum.

“We didn’t do 3.36 (hours) when I first started ten years ago. We recognized that we should, we set the target worked towards it, and achieved it. So, the goalposts changed and now it’s 4.1 and we need to do that again. We need to commit to the target.”

Mackenzie added a more hands-on approach is needed when it comes to the funding of long-term care and that all of the money goes to improving the quality of life for residents.

“That’s not clear right now that we have a handle on that. I think the other thing we have to recognize is that the 3.36 (hours) is not sufficient in terms of the care hours per resident, per day. If that were sufficient, these numbers would look a lot different.”

According to the report, funding for long-term care in BC has spiked by 45% in the last six years – however, staffing levels have only gone up by 10% during this time.

“A lot of it leads back to not enough staff. It’s things like half of the people rarely or never get a bath when they want and a third of people can’t get help to eat when they need it and a quarter of people can’t get help to the toilet when they need it.”

Mackenzie’s report has a list of eight recommendations to improve long-term care including increasing social connections for residents by creating more meaningful activities and upgrading food and mealtime experiences to meet residents’ preferences.

“Some of that we can chip away at by increasing staffing but most of it is really about the culture in long-term care and this model of long-term care where we mix people of great variations together and they don’t have that much in common.”

“People are also not feeling the variety of food is meeting their and that’s difficult, but again, we go back to care homes who say we offer a selection. The selection is often this or that meaning there are only two options for your entree. If you go to a restaurant there are generally more than two items on the menu. To what degree can we allow people greater latitude in deciding what meals they want? We’ll never be perfect but I think there is room for improvement.”

Highlights from the survey include:

•   54% rated the overall quality of the care and services received in the home as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’

•  Almost 80% of residents felt they could express their opinions ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’

•   81% of residents decide how to spend their time

•   85% of residents felt their privacy was respected during care ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’

•   95% of residents reported they have never been treated unfairly by staff due to their race or cultural background, and 97% reported they have never been treated unfairly due to their sexual orientation

•   88% of residents feel safe when they are alone ‘almost’ or ‘most of the time’

•   87% of residents reported they trust staff to take good care of them and staff treat them like a whole person ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’

•  48% of residents feel their care home ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ feels like home

•  51% of residents said staff only ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ make time for a friendly conversation or ask how to meet their needs

•  50% of residents reported they ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ had the same care aide most weekdays

•  33% of residents report that they only ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ get help to eat when needed

•  One-third of residents only ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ get to decide when to get up

•  29% of residents only ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ get help right away if needed although 79% report they could get the services they need ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’

•  Almost two-thirds of residents only ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ find enjoyable things to do on evenings and weekends, or find opportunities to explore new skills or interests

The report includes the following 8 recommendations:

1.   Increase staffing levels in all care facilities to the nationally recommended 4.1 hours of direct care per resident per day.

2.   Increase the flexibility of scheduling.

3.  Increase social connections for residents by creating more meaningful activities to improve resident engagement.

4.  Improve food and mealtime experience to meet residents’ preferences, including nutritional and culturally-specific dietary needs.

5. Implement compulsory professional education for all care home staff in cultural safety and emotional health and well-being of residents.

6.  Allow all residents (or substitute decision maker, if appropriate) to name their “essential visitor”.

7.   Work closely with the Independent Long-Term Care Councils Association of BC to raise awareness and increase the function of resident and family councils at all long-term care facilities in B.C.

8.  Improve community-based services, in particular home support, to ensure seniors are not required to seek long-term care unless their care needs cannot be met in the community.

A full link to the report can be found here.

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