The Canadian long-term care dilemma — where are we headed?

Two weeks after the pandemic, nursing homes were quarantined in March 2020, Barbara Heuman was sitting on a deck chair in front of her husband’s room. She could only see him through a window, but she had seen enough and the next day she started to bring him home.

“It was a little scary, but I knew it was going to work. I just had to be positive and do what I had to do to do best for him, ”she says.

Heuman essentially did what many Canadians promised once quarantines and deaths became synonymous with LTC. The growing disaster caused generations to think about how to deal with our seniors.

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Ottawa Hospital has developed an online decision-making tool that enables families to understand the risks of seniors returning home. It asks questions about care expenditure for living conditions and health with the aim of drawing a realistic picture of everyone’s needs. Aid has been requested over 30,000 times, but it is unclear how many people decided to pull loved ones out of the LTC as no one is collecting statistics on the subject.

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“I have certainly heard stories in many of the country’s provinces in which families have taken their loved ones out of care,” says Dr. Sinai hospital.

“And there could be dozens, that could be hundreds. I don’t necessarily think there will be thousands. “

Dr. Sinha suspects that many Canadians have found that in theory it was much easier to get seniors out of nursing homes than in practice. Despite the fear of COVID-19, they simply were unable to provide the care of their loved ones. Problems like mobility and dementia proved too difficult to deal with.

“These are the things you don’t want people to find out about problems like this after they actually leave the house,” he says. “They want you to go in with your eyes open.”

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It certainly wasn’t easy for Heuman. She tried to nurse her husband Frank Carlucci a few years ago after he suffered a serious brain injury. But eventually she found she wasn’t up to the task and found a nearby old people’s home where he could get regular physical therapy.

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“I honestly thought he would spend the rest of his life here,” she says.

Carlucci eventually recovered enough that Heuman was ready to try again after the pandemic broke out. But she says she found a system where seniors only leave LTC when they died. She says the directors of Carlucci’s house told her that if he left he would lose his bed.

Undeterred, she took Carlucci home. And a few months later, the Ontario government (and other provinces as well) decided that anyone removing a senior from a home due to COVID-19 would put themselves at the top of the line for a care bed in case they came back should decide. The caveat is that the offer will only last until the pandemic is over, but when Global News asked the Department of Long-Term Care how it would determine that date, it circumvented the question.

“When Ontario basically says the pandemic is over for us now on September 1st,” says Dr. Sinha, “then after this time you are not protected by these changes.”

Almost 16 months after the first nursing homes were quarantined, the demand for beds has dropped significantly. Ontario’s waiting list has remained relatively constant with 39,000 seniors waiting for bed. Dr. Sinha says the number should be much higher considering that 8,000 beds have been cut to avoid putting too many seniors in the same room.

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“I think a lot of people have absolutely lost confidence in our long-term care system and its ability to keep people safe, especially during a pandemic,” he says.

Senior citizens’ organizations have also seen a change. Bill VanGorder of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) says the group believes that 20 percent of the people in LTC would still be home if there was adequate community support.

“Long-term care facilities are important, but they should be limited to those who are not getting the care they need for any other valid reason, unless they are in a hospital-like facility, which some of them are,” “he says.

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Susan Danard of Vancouver asked exactly this question when her family discovered that her mother Audrey could no longer live alone. The 81-year-old was in a large house on Vancouver Island and was in a retirement home two weeks before moving into when the pandemic broke out.

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When they decided not to take the risk, they went to Plan B, which included the sale of Audrey’s home, as well as the home Susan shared with her husband, and the pooling of assets to move to a more senior-friendly home in North Vancouver.

“It is extremely difficult to take care of people,” says Danard. “And you know, not every family can. So we were lucky that it came together. But I mean, it was really good luck. And my husband’s benevolence, which I have to say, is extraordinary, because not every man would say I want to live with my mother-in-law. But he was okay with it. “

The Danards know that not everyone is as lucky as they are. From a health and financial point of view, they made it.

And despite a learning curve, Susan says, it was the only decision her family could make.

“For me it was just a time to really think,” she says.

“What do I want to achieve in my life at the end of the day? And to be honest, if I hadn’t taken care of my mother, everything else would have mattered. “

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