Strug­gling with long-term care

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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