Struggling with long-term care
The following letter was originally addressed to provincial Health Minister Steve Kent:
I write to you today not as a Registered Nurse in this province for 24 years, but as a daughter caring for my 81-year old widowed father.
Over the past six months, I have had the opportunity to witness the many aspects of the current provincial long-term care (LTC) process. It is with this in mind, that I express my concerns to you today. Seniors and children are the most vulnerable members of our society, as I am sure you would agree. The sense of frustration that I feel must be minimal, compared to those families with no healthcare background.
I have explored many options to provide care for my father. These include private retirement facilities (St. John’s), private and provincial facilities (New Brunswick, location of my sibling) and the NL provincial system (Labrador-Grenfell Health and Eastern Health).
The roadblocks families have to endure are daunting, to say the least. I firmly believe these daunting experiences leave caregivers with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Thus, resulting in seniors being cared for in the acute care sector. Please be assured, I will exhaust every personal, professional, and financial means, to ensure that my dad does not end up in the acute care sinkhole. There are numerous possible negative consequences associated with seniors in an acute care environment. Seniors may be unnecessarily overmedicated, prone to falls, increasing confusion, as well as the potential for hospital-acquired infections. Unfortunately, these events lead to increased morbidity and mortality for seniors. As a struggling caregiver, I firmly believe that the LTC processes need to be more efficient as well as timely. The new LTC assessment form remains subjective in nature. It captures a snapshot in time. Seniors would be better served having the assessments completed by LTC Registered Nurses or Licensed Practical Nurses. Social workers do not possess the holistic skill set required to exclude subjective data.
Assessment and placement meetings need to occur more frequent than once a month. The result of the meeting should then be communicated to families in a timely fashion. The timely access for seniors whom require electronic bracelets, may or may not be operational. Subsequently, this adds to exhausted resources. For families wishing to explore facility options outside their region, it seems inhuman for social workers to forward a facilities list to caregivers, and expect them to make the contacts. The support that families desperately need is often lacking. Recently, the word privatization was mentioned with regards to LTC. I have had only positive experiences with senior administrators in the private sector. I would place my father there immediately, except for the fact that he would only have my support via Facetime or Skype.
Perhaps it is time to combine the best practices from both the public and private sector. This may be a model of care that would address a lot of frustrations of caregivers. I am hoping you will be diligent to involve stakeholders in order to improve the current provincial LTC system. The seniors and their families depend on it.