Ontario Long Term Care Association calls for expansion of mental health supports for seniors with Alzheimer's

OTTAWA, Jan. 22, 2015 - As media and charitable organizations raise awareness of National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) presented to the Ontario Finance Committee and called for the province to invest in dedicated support for seniors in long-term care homes suffering the effects of Alzheimer's and other dementias.

"More than 6 in 10 of the 77,000 seniors living in long-term care homes in Ontario live with Alzheimer's or other dementias," said Candace Chartier, CEO of the OLTCA. "We know we can provide better and safer care to these seniors with a small investment in dedicated behavioural support teams who have the appropriate expertise. Our seniors with mental health needs deserve this care. Now."

In 2013, the province made an important investment in long-term care by funding in-house dedicated mental health support teams in more than 100 homes in the province. This funding allows homes to hire staff specifically trained in dealing with the challenging behaviours that often come with Alzheimer's and dementias, such as aggression, wandering, repetitive behaviour, and refusing care.

The OLTCA called on the government to make the additional investment needed to ensure that every one of Ontario's long-term care homes has these dedicated behavioural supports on-site to ensure that seniors are safe, comfortable, and receiving the care they need.

"Funding dedicated behavioural support teams in every home in the province would mean that seniors with Alzheimer's and other dementias receive personalized, compassionate care of the distress that underlies most challenging behaviour," said Chartier. "From a system perspective, these teams also help to prevent seniors from being sent to hospital emergency departments, lessening the burden and costs on other parts of the health care system."

An analysis of the Continuing Care Reporting System (CCRS) conducted by Dr. Jeff Poss between 2008 and 2013 shows that:

  • The proportion of residents with cognitive impairment rose by 7.7%

  • Residents with dementia rose by 5%

  • Residents with psychiatric/mood disorders rose by 5.7%

  • Residents with aggressive behaviours rose by 7.4%

 "The number of seniors with mental health issues has risen dramatically in the last decade and will continue to grow in the coming years," Chartier added. "The time for action is now."

For more information on the state of long-term care in Ontario, read the 2014 progress report from the Ontario Long Term Care Association. 

For further information: Judy Irwin, Senior Manager, Communications, Mobile: 647-967-8995 or jirwin@oltca.com.