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Troubling report highlights neglect at assisted living facilities in B.C.

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A new report has revealed troubling findings at assisted living facilities in B.C.

“There are points in the study that indicate the likelihood of substantial neglect,” said Dr. Karen-Marie Perry, the report’s author.

According to Perry, the assisted living sector in B.C. is “under-regulated, under-researched and largely privatized.”

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The report was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Among the key findings: Low staffing levels and a high rate of emergency-room visits and hospitalizations, particularly due to falls.

Another concerning finding is that care needs are not being met due to costs.

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Examples given in the report included towels being used as adult diapers or for wound care, residents skipping meals because they weren’t included in basic meal packages and seniors wearing dirty clothing due to detergent costs.

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The problem, said Perry, is most prevalent at privately run facilities, where seniors have to pay extra for anything outside of their basic package.

“Unfortunately with a lot the private-paid facilities, money can be the bottom line,” said Perry, “so the idea is to get as many seniors as possible into the residence and draw as large of a profit as possible from the senior.”

In B.C., more than half of the roughly 8,000 assisted living units are privately run.

“Working in assisted living can be heartbreaking,” said Anita Dickson, past president of the Licensed Practical Nurses Association of B.C.

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Dickson used to work in assisted living, and said she often felt helpless when a resident came to her for help.

“You’re held by the rules of the organization that you have to charge them for it, and you know they can’t afford it, so the best you can do is either sneak the help, which ends up happening or call the family, and then the family is burdened with being the non-paid caregivers,” Dickson told Global News.

The report also found that assisted living in B.C. is too under-regulated.

“Across the board, it looks like the regulations have not been adequately enforced,” Penner said.

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A seniors advocate in B.C., Isobel Mackenzie, said it’s troubling to hear care needs are not being met.

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“We do have, I think, a duty and obligation to understand what is happening, and I think that this report serves as a bit of a catalyst to say, ‘Yeah we need to take a look and find out more about what is going on,'” Isobel Mackenzie told Global News.

Mackenzie said a review of the assisted living sector is likely to take place in the coming weeks.

“I’m fairly confident that there’s enough in this report that’s come out today,” said Mackenzie, “combined with the decision of the provincial health officer to include assisted living in her long-term care orders for COVID-19 — combined with issues raised in the past about insufficient subsidized assisted-living being available for people — I think that we will undertake this systemic review.”

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In a statement to Global News, the Ministry of Health said the following in response to the report and its findings:

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• The ombudsperson and the seniors advocate have both called for increased oversight of assisted living for many years.
• To help address these issues, government is investing $1.018 billion over three years to improve care for seniors, including investments in primary care, home health, long-term care, assisted living and respite services.
• This includes making sure that assisted living residences and long-term care homes provide the best possible care for those who need them.
• New assisted living regulations were passed in August last year (which came in to force Dec. 1, 2019) to increase oversight over assisted living to allow for more inspections and for quick action to protect residents.
• Through these amendments, the province has enhanced oversight powers to ensure the health and safety of residents, including the ability to conduct routine and monitoring inspections and to act where there is an immediate risk to the health or safety of a resident.
• The ministry is committed to working with the seniors advocate and the entire sector to improve care for our elders.

If you would like to read the full news release on the assisted living report, click here.

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