Dundas long-term care home cites COVID-19 as barrier to addressing abuse between residents

Wentworth Lodge says COVID-19 has made it challenging to address cases of resident-on-resident abuse, after it received a compliance order from the Ministry of Long Term care. Lisa Polewski / Global News

A long-term care home in Dundas, Ont., says COVID-19 has made it difficult to address resident-on-resident abuse after it received a compliance order from Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care.

In a report presented to Hamilton’s emergency and community services committee on Thursday, administrators at Wentworth Lodge say the compliance order was a “reissue” due to cases of abuse stemming from cognitive impairment.

It says 85 per cent of long-term care residents have some type of cognitive impairment, and half of them exhibit aggressive behaviour.

While they aim to treat most residents inside the city-owned facility, others with “high-risk behaviours” need to be transferred to alternate levels of care.

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That wasn’t able to happen during the first six months of the pandemic, according to senior administrator Holly Odoardi.

“The hospitals were not taking residents and referrals up until about mid- to end of August,” said Odoardi. “And so there was a little bit of a pause in the system for being able to have residents assessed at a different level of care.”

She also said the number of residents who experience cognitive impairment and exhibit “aggressive behaviour” — ranging from being verbally or physically abusive to socially disruptive or resisting care and assistance — has increased over the past five years.

Read more: Ontario tightens long-term care visitor rules as coronavirus cases increase

Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark says he’s concerned about that increase, citing his own experiences working at St. Peter’s Hospital.

“I’m concerned about the number of residents who are now exhibiting that type of cognitive impairment, and the change in just five years, and that it’s system-wide,” said Clark.

“It’s something that I guess we’re going to have to monitor because I have witnessed that type of aggressive behaviour, and I’ve witnessed wanderers, and I’ve been hugged many times just by walking into a ward. They exhibit all different types of behaviour, so it’s a challenge trying to create a system that fits the mould for everybody.”

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The report also cites a lack of staff as another significant obstacle, pointing to the province’s policy that prevents staff in long-term care from working at more than one facility and saying that it “has created a challenge in the ability to book staff to complete 1:1 monitoring.”

Odoardi said they’re looking at ways to add more personal support workers to their staff, including recruiting through local colleges and universities.

The home is developing what it calls “a plan of correction” to address the compliance order, with another ministry inspection expected at a later date.

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