Give long-term care the resources it needs

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By Judy Barrett

My intention with this letter is to express my concern with the daily operation of a facility that is designed and created to care for seniors who are unable to care for themselves in their own homes.

A nursing home should be a place that recognizes that every person is unique, as are their needs. And given that it is a long-term facility, must be able to treat the residents with dignity and in a caring fashion while ensuring they are clean, fed and nurtured. A nursing home’s daily structure and staffing numbers should be in sync with the demands of the residents, thus allowing residents the degree of assistance that suits their personal needs.

Though my concern is with the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex in my native Newfoundland, I have experienced similar concerns when visiting nursing home on Prince Edward Island, where I now reside.

Under advice from health-care professionals, my mother was admitted to Hoyles-Escasoni after her second stroke because my family was unable to provide the daily care and supervision that was needed for her safety.

Luckily for my mother, having a large family living close allows us to visit and offer assistance almost daily. I use the word lucky in this context because many residents are not as fortunate to have family who can visit regularly and help out with needs such as feeding and personal hygiene.

In spending time with my mother, we have been able to see how difficult it is for staff to meet the daily care needs of residents.

Dedicated staff

Those working in this kind of environment are to be commended for their compassion and commitment to caring for our aging family members and friends. These are very demanding and stressful positions that we feel are too often made worse because of shortages in staff, low wages and a lack of understanding in having a system that is designed and geared to the needs of the residents.

When the majority of residents need assistance with meals, it doesn’t make sense to have all the meals arrive at the same time given that staff shortage is often a problem. The same is true when it comes to personal hygiene for residents, as it is impossible to have all the residents cleaned at the same time.

Bathing takes time and requires at least two staff per person, making it difficult for residents who may need to get to the washroom or to be changed as need requires.

Certainly, there will be times when staff may not be able to respond quickly to a resident’s request to get to the washroom but occasions should be rare given the problem with urinary-tract infections in long-term care facilities. It is also very humiliating for those who do have bowel and bladder control issues to have to wait and experience the embarrassment of having an accident before they have been looked after.

In many government departments there seems to be an abundance of administrative staff who should be ensuring that these facilities are operating as best they can for the comfort and care of these long-term residents, yet we continue with many of the same procedures and policies that are not working effectively or efficiently. Added to that are shortages of front-line staff (often underpaid) who are the heartbeat of the facility that results in less than adequate care for our families and friends.

My hope is that some thought and consideration will be put into my concerns — concerns that I know are shared by many families — to improve on the present system so that we are truly creating priorities and protecting the health and well-being of all our seniors.

Keep in mind that some of us will be experiencing a similar future depending on our aging physical and mental conditions.


Judy Barrett, who is originally from Bell Island, writes from Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Organizations: Hoyles-Escasoni Complex

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Bell Island Charlottetown

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