Survey gives mixed grades to B.C. seniors’ care homes

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BC’s Seniors Advocate has released what her office is calling a “landmark” survey about the experiences of 22,000 seniors living in government-subsidized care homes.

While the survey found most seniors feel safe and respected, the results were not all positive.

LISTEN: Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie on the survey results

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Isobel Mackenzie’s team checked in with seniors and their most frequent visitors between June 2016 and May 2017, asking questions about their day to day activities, food quality, staff responsiveness, medical care, and social isolation.

On several key metrics, the survey found seniors were doing well.

  • 88 per cent of seniors who responded felt safe
  • 88 per cent of family members said staff address their concerns always or most of the time.
  • 86 per cent felt they were treated with respect
  • 80 per cent said they received the services they need

However, the report also highlighted key areas of concern.

  • 62 per cent said they don’t get baths or showers as often as they’d like, with 50 per cent saying it rarely or never happens
  • 51 per cent said they struggle to make friends, with 45 per cent saying they rarely have people to do things with
  • 40 per cent said they do not want to be in their care home
  • More than 33 per cent said they aren’t getting the help they need a meal time
  • 25 per cent of respondents said they don’t get help getting to the toilet when they need it, with the same number saying staff rarely or never try to relieve physical discomfort

“Over half of the respondents said that they don’t get to eat the meals when they want,” said Mackenzie.

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“Here we are thinking, ‘Oh, it’s all about the temperature of the food.’ Well actually, a third of people think the temperature could be better, but they want to eat at different times,” she added.

Mackenzie is making eight recommendations in response to the survey’s findings.

They include increasing care hours, ensuring staffing levels are enforced and monitored by health authorities, increasing the flexibility of care delivery, and improving training on residents emotional needs.

The report also recommends expanding the role of nurse practitioners in care facilities, along with the range of activities provided in care homes.

BC Care Providers Association CEO Daniel Fontaine said a lot of the recommendations from the report align with what his organization has been calling for.

“One of the recommendations talks about increasing culinary options within the care settings, that’s something we talked about in a report we released in 2014. It talks about having more flexible meal times, we absolutely support that.”

He added that addressing staffing concerns is not a new concern, and one that is seeing some action.

“The announcement earlier this year of $500 million being invested over the next several years in the system will help to address that. And I believe we’ll be hiring 1,500 staff across the province, we’ll be addressing that over the coming years.”

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But Fontaine says his organization does have problems with the survey’s methodology.

He points to a 43 per cent response rate, and the fact the respondents — at an average age of 88 — had to answer more than 100 questions to participate, taking at least half an hour.

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