Op-Ed: Long-Term Care Staff Being Mischaracterized

By: Candace Chartier
December 21, 2017

The holiday season has always been recognized as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to spread cheer and to celebrate the year that has passed. Perhaps there is no better time than now to reflect on the important, and often thankless role that the front line staff in our long-term care homes play, caring for our parents and grandparents at a time when they can no longer care for themselves.
The women and men working in long-term care today are doing an incredible job caring for what is arguably the most clinically complex demographic in our health care system. Ninety per cent of residents in long-term care exhibit some level of cognitive impairment or dementia. Practically every resident requires help with activities of daily living – such as getting out of bed, eating and support with going to the bathroom, in addition to having two or more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and arthritis. 
As a former nurse who spent almost two decades working in long-term care, I can attest that the demands of the long-term care environment today are far more challenging than they were just five years ago – and given the pace of the aging demographic, they are growing more with each passing year.
Every day our personal support workers and nurses take care of tens of thousands of seniors with complex needs, with little or no recognition from the media or public. More so of late, and particularly in the Ottawa area, these dedicated men and women are being caught up in the negative press coverage that mischaracterizes homes throughout our system based on the select actions of a few. 
Make no mistake, there is no place in our homes for poor quality care or abuse – there is no home or operator that condones abusive behaviour and some of the incidents that have transpired of late are appalling, to say the least. That said, it is important to understand (and you do not read this in the coverage), more than 90 per cent of homes across Ontario meet or exceed ministry standards for safety and quality. 
As we look to the New Year, we hope that coverage will become more balanced and that there will be more opportunities to explore how the residents living in long-term care really feel about their care. Having toured the homes in Ottawa recently, I can attest that the vast majority of residents I spoke to were quite satisfied with their experience – something we hope can find its way into future stories about long-term care. 
- Candace Chartier 
Candace is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, a registered nurse and former operator of several long-term care homes.