The status quo with long-term care can no longer stand

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

May 29, 2020 – The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has changed so much about the way we live in this country. Many predict those changes will be permanent. And while we cannot yet know whether going to the office will be indelibly replaced with working from home, or whether cities will indeed shrink as residents flee density for small communities and more space, we know one thing must change forever: the way we house and care for our elders.

Recent reports from the Canadian Armed Forces detailing what they witnessed at long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec have revealed with horrifying exactitude just how vulnerable our parents and grandparents have been over the last three months. Abandoned in some cases, starved, left unbathed and otherwise neglected, we now understand why about 80 per cent of deaths related to this deadly virus have occurred in these places.

It is sickening. No one deserves to die this way, least of all the generation that paid into the system that built our much-vaunted health infrastructure, only to have it fail them so profoundly when they were most frail and helpless.

It is not just governments, regulators and care home operators who were unprepared at best (willfully negligent at worst) for what they faced. In recent years, would-be residents and long-term care residents themselves were caught off guard by this wholly unimaginable danger.

Indeed, past Angus Reid Institute studies showed retirees were most worried about outliving their savings, not about where they would live or whether those places would be safe. Research conducted just last year about aging again underscored money worries among those over the age of 55, along with concerns about loss of mental cognition and mobility. They did not express, however, fears of meeting their deaths alone, separated from family, with no one to provide comfort in their last moments.

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

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