COVID-19 crisis reveals need for national standards for care of seniors

  • June 30, 2020

The CBA’s Elder Law Section has joined many Canadian organizations that deal with seniors in calling on the federal government to increase the safety of older Canadians living in group care facilities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the extent to which many of Canada’s current group care facilities rely on personal support workers and the unpaid support of family members to operate successfully,” the Section said in a letter to the federal government. “Canadians have seen that without these resources, most essential needs of residents are not met, leaving many malnourished, dehydrated and without even the most basic personal hygiene care.”

The Section notes that the situation described in the recent report from Canadian military personnel assigned to help in group care homes in Quebec and Ontario during the pandemic has been called “deeply disturbing.”

The Section calls for the government to give immediate attention to the needs of seniors and other residents of long-term care facilities. While the provinces have primary responsibility for these facilities, the Section says the federal government can act as a funding partner and a leader to encourage and support an adequate national approach.

For the long term, it suggests the federal government create a national body to help the provinces and territories “develop consistent standards, education and policies for group care facilities, particularly on levels of care of residents, dealing with an outbreak, coordinating with hospitals and supporting residents’ families.”

In the meanwhile, the federal government could:

  • Offer relief funding to personal support workers to curb absenteeism and staffing shortages
  • Improve the infrastructure of group care facilities
  • Offer better support and resources for education and training programs
  • Develop minimum staffing ratios and standardized national protocols on the general care and treatment of older adults in group care facilities
  • Supply enhanced and accessible COVID-19 testing for personal support workers.

“We urge the federal government to act now to increase the safety of older Canadians living in group care facilities,” the Section writes. “It is clear that we need to prioritize solutions to ensure that the basic needs and human rights of this vulnerable group are respected and supported.”