Opinion: Let’s find ways to make senior care less expensive and more home like

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There is no question that the devastating impact of COVID-19 on elders in long-term care (LTC) homes across the country has brought to light a need for fundamental change.

As many as 85 per cent of Canadian deaths from COVID-19 have taken place in LTC homes, one of the highest rates in the world. How could this happen in a country like Canada, with a world-renowned health care system?

The reality is that long-term care falls outside of the Canada Health Act and is chronically underfunded. Low wages for continuous care assistants (CCAs), lack of benefits such as sick leave, reliance on too many part-time workers with no benefits at all, and the scarcity of personal protection equipment (PPE) contributed to the worker shortage that led to so many deaths.

One measure of the quality of care in LTC is the number of nurse and CCA hours spent with each resident per day (hprd) to help them with bathing, toileting, meals, mobility and importantly, personal connection. The often quoted national standard for nursing and CCA care staff is 4.0 hprd. Some provincial rates are: BC 2.25-3.5, Ontario 2.55-3.1 and Saskatchewan 1.47 hprd. Saskatchewan’s minimum standard of care in 2004 was 2.0 hprd, however the newer 2011 guidelines do not include any hprd standards. That is unacceptable.