Creativity, engagement drives long-term care homes to fight for Better Seniors’ Care

Harnessing their creativity and united by their will to provide better seniors' care, more than 25,850 letters, calls and tweets were sent to MPPs from long-term care residents, families, staff and communities across the province during the Ontario Long Term Care Association's 2016 Better Seniors’ Care letter-writing campaign and contest. 

This year’s campaign was focused on four priority areas to enhance quality of life for people living in Ontario’s more than 600 long-term care homes:
– Making long-term care homes safer and more modern
– Building capacity for better dementia care
– Supporting the role of smaller long-term care homes
– Staffing solutions that will lead to better seniors’ care

The Association's goal was to get as many people as possible to connect with their MPP - by phone, letter or social media - and encourage them to support making long-term care a priority in the 2016 provincial budget. As an incentive for homes to participate, each interaction (letter, phone call, or Twitter 'share') taken on behalf of long-term care homes were counted and tracked, and the Residents' Councils of the winning homes were awarded a portion of $5,000 to make improvements to their home.

Five of Jarlette Health Services’ 13 long-term care homes received awards for their efforts during the contest: Villa Care Centre, Leacock Care Centre, Southampton Care Centre, Meadow Park Chatham and Manitoulin Lodge. The secret to their success? Jarlette created their own internal contest based on the film The Hunger Games, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where the fictional country is split into 13 districts after an uprising to overthrow the tyrannical and corrupt capitol goes awry. 

Because of the film’s popularity, the theme was quickly embraced by the homes, mainly for its “ability to engage the staff and residents to work together and advocate for the frail individuals who deserve the best care and support we can provide,” says Alison Riddy, Jarlette’s marketing and communications manager. “The staff at our homes became the heroes, working together to achieve positive outcomes for those who are sometimes unable to speak out for themselves,” she explains. 

Using this model, Jarlette homes were divided into 13 “districts,” representing each of its 13 long-term care homes. Each district was assigned a community focus and key strategy. As an added incentive, the Jarlette home with the most signed letters sent to their MPP was promised the entire long-term care operations team as representatives from head office to come to their home for a day to help in whatever capacity the home chooses.

With 5,025 signed letters sent to their home's MPP, Villa Care Centre in Midland, Ontario, had the most letters sent in of all Jarlette homes - as well as the most of any other Association OLTCA member. 

“This campaign had some key messages that really struck a chord in our home,” says Debbie Emmerton, Villa Care Centre’s resident and family services co-ordinator.

Getting people on board with the campaign was easy, Emmerton adds, noting the home constantly strives to enhance quality of life for residents.

“When a campaign like this is happening, everyone wants to become involved,” she says.

Utilizing social media and advertising the Better Seniors’ Care campaign throughout OMNI Health Care's Garden Terrace helped the Ottawa-area long-term care home receive top honours as well in this year’s letter-writing contest. Garden Terrace residents, family members and staff sent in 1,720 signed letters, more than any other home with more than 133 beds.

Staff members used Garden Terrace’s Facebook page to encourage its followers to sign the letters. Posters advertising the Better Seniors’ Care campaign were put in elevators and in areas of the home with lots of traffic. Staff members approached visitors, explaining the importance of the campaign to people and encouraging them to send in a letter. A representative from Medigas, one of the OMNI Health Care-owned home’s suppliers, even brought a stack of letters back to the office for his colleagues to sign.

Sylvia Monette, the life enrichment co-ordinator at Garden Terrace, says the number one issue at Garden Terrace is the need for more funds allocated to increase staffing. She says she hopes the 1,720 signed letters the home sent in persuades the government to increase funding for staffing.

“I hope (the province) looks more at our staff and provides more funding to give us more help,” she says. “We do a great job with what we have, but we could sure do better with more funding.”

Steeves & Rozema communities also used social media to engage people in the importance of enhancing seniors’ care in Ontario. Steeves & Rozema’s seven long-term care homes sent out close to 4,000 tweets, calls and letters to MPPs advocating for better seniors’ care during the campaign.

With 1,045 letters signed, Heron Terrace in Windsor placed third in the category for homes with 133 or more residents.

“It was a team effort. Everybody contributed,” says Heron Terrace life enrichment manager Lori George, noting the home’s efforts were boosted by a number of volunteers with a local church, who took the campaign on as a project. “Everyone just helped out and did their part."

The Ontario Long Term Care Association thanks everyone who participated in the campaign and congratulates all of our contest winners:

Category one – homes with 1-79 beds 
1. Manitoulin Lodge (Jarlette) with 949 actions (Gore Bay)
2. Meaford Long Term Care Centre with 578 actions (Meaford)
3. Frost Manor (OMNI) with 535 actions (Lindsay)

Category two – homes with 80-132 beds
1. Villa Care Centre (Jarlette) with 5,025 actions (Midland) - and the highest home overall!
2. Southampton Care Centre (Jarlette) with 3,635 actions (Southampton)
3. Meadow Park Chatham (Jarlette) with 1,621 actions (Chatham)

Category three – homes with 133 beds and above
1. Garden Terrace (OMNI) with 1,720 actions (Kanata)
2. Leacock Care Centre (Jarlette) with 1,581 actions (Orillia)
3. Heron Terrace Long Term Care Community (Steeves & Rozema) with 1,045 actions (Windsor)
In photo: Residents and staff from Jarlette's Leacock Care Centre take to the streets to raise awareness of the Better Seniors' Care campaign and get the community to send letters in on their behalf.