“Families need to be heard” | Fixing Canada's long-term care crisis with Kathy Pearsall

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Broken — the word used by advocates to describe the publicly funded, largely privately delivered long-term care sector in Canada.

The interviewee that I’m bringing you today, Kathy Pearsall, is no stranger to this system. Kathy wrote a book at the end of 2020 called Broken: Long-Term Care in Canada, which outlines the problems in long-term care.

Kathy witnessed directly how suboptimal the care that her father received in a for-profit care home was, and has been a seniors advocate ever since — continuing this work for 20 years after her own father passed away. The decades old issues surrounding the long-term care sector in Canada have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Residents in long-term care are vulnerable. Families of seniors long for a safe place for their aging loved ones to call home to live out the last few years of their life. But they are not told about the factory-style, assembly-line care.

As an independent journalist, Kathy is affiliated with the Canada-wide advocacy group called Hands of Hope. They have outlined national regulations that they would like to see legislated in order to begin to repair the issues occurring in long-term care.

In this interview, Kathy delves into the proposed national regulations that she wants to see enforced and legislated at the federal level. The following is a brief summary:

  • WORKFORCE – maximum staffing ratio of 1:4 care provider to resident; hire full time and permanent part time staff; increase management credentials and experience requirements; in-house menu planning.
  • EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Standardized training; revised curriculum for workers to include resident rights, dementia care, etc; build teams of collaborators between care providers; eliminate online training.
  • FAMILY INVOLVEMENT – Family invited to advise and partake in direct care/life enrichment; legislate advisory councils.
  • LIFE ENRICHMENT – “Recreation staff” to be re-named “life enrichment” staff; all day activity not to be limited/time slotted; individualized care; continuity of care.
  • WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION – protection from employer reprisal.
  • INSPECTIONS – Annual inspections and handling of complaints conducted by autonomous agency separate from government; inspection teams have long-term care experience & empowered to conduct investigations at all levels; inspectors respond to concerns of advisory councils.
  • FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY – Random financial audits conducted annually by auditor general, w/ full public disclosure; families and advocacy groups have right to obtain financial statements, annual staffing plans; supplier contracts tendered and made public.
  • PENALTIES – Governments must immediately penalize bad actors through financial means and/or removal of license; publicly disclosed.
  • PHASE OUT FOR-PROFIT CARE – Cap profits at five per cent of annual revenues; limit annual management salary raises to rates of inflation; enable not-for-profit and municipal operators to fairly compete with for-profit operators for licenses.
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  • By Drea Humphrey

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