More and more serious concerns are being raised about the standard of care provided by many elder care facilities. Concerns range from overcrowding, insufficient staff, untrained staff, staff abuse and to dangerous and sometimes deadly confrontations that occur between residents suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer.
When ageing relatives are no longer able to care for themselves it can be a challenging time for families. Unlike how things were done in the past where families and the community worked together to take care of the elderly, that job is now increasingly undertaken by health care institutions. Elder health care is rapidly becoming a booming business. Similar to other businesses, elder care institutions focus more on profits and the bottom line but less on their frail and fragile clients. Hence the elderly are often victims of substandard health care services due to an absence of proper monitoring and regulations.
Earlier this year it was reported that over 10,000 Canadians were abused in the elder care industry. That is a staggering amount of abuses occurring annually in these facilities. (Refer to: Renewed focus on seniors violence after 91-year-old woman dies following fight and CareHomes_TenThousandAbused) Elder care facilities that are supposed to be safe havens for the most vulnerable among us are failing them. A case in point is the recent ruling to take away the licence from a retirement home. This underscores the dire need to improve the standards that govern health care facilities. Clearly there is a need to regulate and monitor how elder care facilities operate. (Refer to: TheStar_RetirementHomes)
Like everything else, care facilities don’t provide identical services. Facilities are graded and the varying costs are intended to reflect where that institution fits with regard to level of service. Costs will vary depending on whether the facility is rated from high-end to mediocre. This raises the question of affordability for seniors of modest income. Seniors who cannot afford to pay those hefty charges have to opt for less expensive care facilities. Yet, many troubling incidents of abuse and violence have occurred in high-end facilities. Many of the victims also have mobility issues. Recent reports have revealed that even high-end facilities that have had a good reputation are now under scrutiny regarding the safety and care of the elderly in their care. Those high costs charged by institutions are not justified. It seems to be mostly about corporate profits.
Unfortunately, there are not many options available to an abused elder when unpleasant or violent incidents occur. In most jurisdictions victims can seek recourse through a ‘complaint line’. Providing a complaint line is a small step in addressing this serious issue. It is not an adequate mechanism to address what is becoming a very serious obstacle in protecting our elders. Adequate regulations and criteria should govern how elder care facilities should operate. These regulations and criteria have to be formulated by a regulatory body such as a task force, ombudsman or watchdog. If the criteria are not met then clients should not have to deal with stifling red tape to seek redress. Speedy legal justice should be embedded within the criteria.
While concerns focus on the standards at facilities the role of family members is important. Relatives need to check up on their elders, especially those suffering from isolation or mental health problems. There are also too many instances where dementia sufferers wander away from the facility and are later found dead. The last federal budget introduced the 2013 Canadian Action Plan which allows a ‘Caregiver Tax Credit Supporting Caregivers’ for a family member with physical or mental impairments who prefers to be cared for in their own home. ( Refer to: http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/blog/supporting-caregivers-through-family-caregiver-tax).
The 2013 Canadian Action Plan tax relief option is for those who prefer to live out their lives in the comfort of their own homes. It is a good start as that option recognizes that home care is a more effective way to reduce health care costs. Moreover it can quell concerns about the type of care provided by some care homes. While it is helpful, it hardly covers the financial burden of hiring a personal caregiver not to mention the physical and emotional burden on relatives who are still in the workforce. Caring for elderly relatives suffering from isolation, mobility issues or serious mental health problems presents a big challenge for families. Providing adequate care for our elders will become an even greater challenge with the rapidly expanding ageing demographic in a world that is still wrestling with an uncertain economic future.
It is essential that effective standards be put in place to stop the rampant abuses that are increasing in elder care facilities. Society`s attitude toward our vulnerable aged and infirm citizens needs to undergo a dramatic transformation.