How the families of those in long-term care see the COVID crisis should give us pause

How the families of those in long-term care see the COVID crisis should give us pause

By Shachi Kurl, President

What happened to our most frail elders during the pandemic? As we try to come to terms with horrifying revelations that dozens of residents of an Ontario long term care facility died not from COVID-19 but from dehydration, malnourishment and dereliction, the revelations keep coming. From British Columbia now, an intrepid South China Morning Post reporter’s pursuit of documents via a freedom of information request unveiled that at certain homes, despite initial staff infections, outbreaks were not immediately declared, leaving the relatives of the dead to wonder whether earlier notice might have saved their loved ones.

More than a year of writing about anxiety and uncertainty, difficulty and pain still leaves this writer feeling ill-equipped to adequately capture the pain so many Canadian families experienced watching — from afar — their loved ones in long-term care facilities deteriorate and disappear, powerless to stop it.

It is understandable that the nation is, and will be, focused on accountability for some time to come. Who did or didn’t do what they should have done? Who pays the price for conditions in some homes that contributed to the grim statistic that deaths in long-term care accounted for more than 80 per cent of overall COVID-19 fatalities in the pandemic’s first months.

Eventually, however, and as it must, conversations about long term care will transition from what happened to what happens next.

Last year, a question from the Angus Reid Institute to Canadians found two-thirds supported “government takeovers” of long-term care facilities. Given the complex system of government, private for-profit, non-profit and community operated homes, plus provincial jurisdiction over health care including oversight of the management of such places, it’s an outcome that seems unlikely. My read on it is that people in this country were reacting to the horror they were watching unfold and calling for something — anything — to change.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on  the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

Image – CHRIS HELGREN /REUTERS


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