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Seniors’ care shouldn’t be a horror show even when the pandemic is over AndréPicard, The Globe and Mail

Note from Lise: Given the relevance and timeliness of this article, it appears below in its entirety.

Residents sitting in their own urine and feces because their continence pads had not been changed in days. Others dehydrated, starving and disoriented, having not been fed or given their medications. Two patients on the verge of death.

That’s the horror show public health inspectors found when they visited Résidence Herron, a 134-bed private long-term care facility in Dorval, Que. on March 29.

Now we know that there have been at least 31 deaths.

The details, first revealed by the Montreal Gazette, are sickening. The questions the incident raises profoundly troubling.

How is it possible that, in 2020, in Canada, that elders entrusted to a licensed care home can be treated worse than dogs at the city pound?

How is it conceivable that vulnerable seniors – some with dementia and severe mobility issues – could be left to fend for themselves? (There were only two orderlies left when inspectors arrived.)

And how can the managers of a corporation that boasts about offering its clients “luxury, comfort, convenience, security” be so crass that they would try to cover up the debacle? (Public health had to get a court order to get access to residents’ files and it was only then they learned there were 31 deaths.)

On Saturday, Quebec Premier François Legault, visibly shaken, said there had been “gross negligence” at the home and he has asked police to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

While this situation is egregious, it is sadly not unique.

Hundreds of nursing homes and seniors’ residences across Canada have been hit by outbreaks of coronavirus, often with deadly consequences.

The most publicized case is Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where 29 people have died so far.

But there are so many others that it’s hard to keep track.

At the Centre d’hébergement LaSalle there have been 20 deaths, and 19 at the CHLSD Ste-Dorothée.

All told, half of the almost 700 COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been in institutional settings.

More than a month ago, a deadly outbreak occurred at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver (where 18 have now died) and it should have sounded an alarm that all seniors’ residences were at serious risk from the new coronavirus.

Yet, business continued more-or-less as usual, with homes restricting visitors and installing hand sanitizers, and isolating people only after they fell ill.

Essential safety measures like routine testing, banning work at multiple sites, and use of personal protective equipment have still have not been fully implemented

What the horror stories (and the data) tell us is that we should be testing every single person in institutional care, and isolating the infected aggressively. (Read: Not four to a room.)

Where routine testing has been done, the results are frightening; at CHLSD Ste-Dorothée, for example, 115 of the 174 residents have tested positive.

Both B.C. and Alberta have banned health care staff from working at multiple institutions, a common practice that allows the coronavirus to spread quickly.

This should be a permanent policy, not a temporary one.

There is no lack of work in nursing homes and long-term care. In fact, there are dire personnel shortages.

But many employers refuse to offer full-time work so they can avoid paying benefits. This forces staff, especially low-wage ones like personal support workers, to juggle shifts at various locations.

We can self-righteously denounce workers who abandoned their charges at places like Résidence Herron but who wants to put their life on the line for fifteen bucks an hour, no benefits – and no PPE?

COVID-19 is a disaster in seniors’ residences. But, more than anything else, it has exposed a crisis that already existed – a crisis of neglect for our elders.

Terrible food, one bath a week, over-medication, inadequate personal care like changing continence pads – all these complaints arise far too regularly in institutional care.

It shouldn’t take dozens or hundreds of deaths on top of that for us to finally be outraged.

The challenge – no, the moral imperative – now is not just get through the pandemic without much more carnage, but to deal with these issues permanently.

Nursing homes and long-term care homes are a necessity in modern society. There is a lot of good institutional care in this country.

But there is still far too much inadequate care, and that means the system needs a fundamental re-think.

Ten Residents Dead from COVID-19 at Almonte, Ontario, Long-term Care Home: Inside Almonte Country Haven: Exhaustion, isolation, death, and a call for help

Bruce Deachman, The Ottawa Citizen

Twelve residents at the 82-bed facility have died there since March 29 – 10 of those from COVID-19-related complications – and others have tested positive. The situation at Almonte and other LTC facilities countrywide, says Jane, needs to be addressed immediately, before circumstances at such centres begin to echo those at Bobcaygeon’s 65-bed Pinecrest Nursing Home, which has seen 28 COVID-19-related deaths as of Wednesday, the worst-hit LTC facility in the province.

Read the complete story here:

Tragedy continues to unfold as 28th resident of Pinecrest Nursing Home dies of Coronavirus

Pamela Vanmeer, Kawartha 411 Breaking News

KAWARTHA LAKES-Officials at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon say one more resident has died of Coronavirus, bringing the total dead to 28 residents and the wife of a resident. “Pinecrest’s experience and findings continue to be shared with the Chief Medical Officer and other public health authorities to inform process and procedure.” said Mary Carr, the home’s administrator. “Our aim is to share as much information as possible with other homes across the province to prioritize the health and safety of long-term care residents in Ontario. This is a situation that is unfolding and, as the understanding of this virus changes, we are implementing all new care directives issued by local and provincial public health authorities.” At least half of the staff have also tested positive for the virus. Many are still off work and reinforcements are being brought in from as far away as Welland, Ontario.

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Don’t use no trespass laws in Ontario retirement homes

The Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board, The Ottawa Citizen

(Note from Lise: There have been cases in Ottawa involving caregivers who were also banned from long-term care facilities, despite the fact that they had not been abusive to staff in any way).

This is a ham-fisted way of dealing with conflicts; surely it would be easier for a retirement home to sit down with an upset relative and work out whatever the problem is. Most families want only what is best for their loved one. Imagine your parent lives in a retirement home, dependent on your regular visits for companionship and support. Now imagine you run afoul of the home’s management for one reason or another – let us say you were upset about your loved one’s treatment, and you yelled at a staffer. In some cases, the retirement home might react by barring you from the premises. You couldn’t visit your aging loved one. If that seems like an extreme reaction, it is. Yet the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly says it gets an average of a call a week from people slapped with a no-trespass order from a retirement home or a long-term care facility. Often, it’s because the visitor was upset at staff about a relative’s care and acted in a way the facility’s management felt was abusive, such as yelling or swearing.

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Seniors’ homes using ‘trespass orders’ to ban family members from visiting

Katie Pedersen, Melissa Mancini, David Common, CBC News, Marketplace

Mary Sardelis wasn’t allowed to visit her 97-year-old mother’s Ottawa retirement home for almost a year. Sardelis lives less than five minutes away from her mother Voula, but the home prevented Sardelis from seeing her, using sections of Ontario’s trespass law.

“For 316 days … I was banned from entering the home,” she said. “You have no idea of the toll it’s taken.” She could call, but her mother’s hearing is poor and she often couldn’t understand what her daughter was saying. “All I could hear was her fears or concerns. And I couldn’t even soothe her.” Sardelis was banned from City View Retirement Community in Ottawa, Ontario, under the Ontario’s Trespass to Property Act. So-called trespass orders allow private property owners to limit who can come onto the premises and, some experts say, are being increasingly used to keep out family members who complain about conditions in retirement and long-term care homes. 

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