Will we remember?

CBC breaking news at press deadline quoted anonymous sources within the Canadian Armed Forces claiming seniors were not being looked after properly in long-term care facilities.

It seems to be a recurrent theme over the years across all forms of media. Undercover investigations often reveal cases of neglect and outright abuse.

Selected excerpts from that CBC story are disturbing.

“We are going to ask the province to investigate the instances of neglect and do something about it,” said one source.”

“We found no rules, a lack of staff training and medical equipment and instances of staff reusing syringes on seniors.”

“Members witnessed people dying and not being taken care of adequately and felt compelled to put it in writing,” said a second source.

Sources said military members deployed to long-term care homes saw cockroaches and residents left in dirty diapers or going unbathed for weeks.

As with many of these stories, these appalling claims hopefully demonstrate the exception and not the norm in care.

Over many personal life experiences, I am proud to know several private operators of long-term care facilities where care is compassionate and kind.

The Wellington Terrace, owned by the county, stands as an excellent example of a publicly-run facility where care is exemplary.

It makes it hard to square these horrible news stories about poor facilities with what I have come to know as places and people determined to provide quality care.

But it happens and one case is too many.

The blame game for the long-term care debacle had already started when the COVID crisis emerged. It certainly will gather steam with these latest revelations.

As unions are wont to do, the government and private sector were to blame. That Doug Ford is the Premier made the private-is-bad-public-is-good argument all the easier to make, claiming inspections and regulations have lessened during his tenure. Whether or not that argument is 100 percent accurate is hard to say. That is the narrative under way.

There is plenty of blame to go around in this system that is under-funded and woefully unprepared. That applies to both non-profit and for-profit centres.

Care costs money and as long as governments are unwilling to address the urgent need for a seniors’ strategy, these horrific stories will surface and not improve.

Rather than establish a commission or enter in a protracted process of examining issues, it is time for action. Remember, these stories have gone on for decades with no cure. Try this list….

Snap unannounced visits from authorities should be mandatory and regular.

Management of such facilities should be paid a premium for exceptional care.

Management of facilities that fail on necessary points need to be fined and if the infractions are not dealt with quickly, licences should be revoked.

In egregious cases, jail sentences should be sought.

Employees of such facilities should be paid well and treated respectfully – particularly the people dealing with the most intimate of patient needs ought to do better than a couple bucks more than minimum wage.

Encourage meaningful mental health strategies for employees in these settings to ensure the best employee possible.

The federal and provincial government need to also work with municipalities to ensure housing and senior services are available for the oncoming cohort of baby boomers.

Patient complaints and concerns need swift resolution.

Governments are charged with regulating all forms of industry – the long-term care strategy is no different. It is past time that consequences accompany forms of abuse that just aren’t acceptable in a country that claims to be just.

And there is a role for family too: it is called visiting and looking out for a loved one. Although this virus has made that impossible, far too often seniors were left to languish and rely on strangers to do the right thing on their behalf.

Everyone needs an advocate, particularly the defenseless.

Will Canadians remember? Will they push governments to invest in senior care? Or will this issue sit on the backburner as it has for generations until the next crisis causes outrage?

It is long past time for action.