With the tragic news about the string of homicides in Woodstock and London nursing homes, many questions are surfacing about how to recognize red flags in long-term care homes.
The issue has been on CARP’s radar for quite some time. From a CARP Poll in 2012, we heard that “All members think enforceable standards and benchmarks for home care are important, few think they exist, and, among those who do, few think they are being followed.”
Though it is clear, this is an exceptional, stand-alone situation; there are clearly underlying issues that need to be addressed.
What we do know is the number of inspections of long-term care facilities has decreased and those inspections are often behind schedule.
It’s not that the rules are inadequate, it’s that care facilities often don’t have the resources to comply with them. Some private care homes may also cut corners to increase their profitability
The current rules and regulations are unrealistic with the existing funding model; resulting in band-aid solutions to complex patient issues that compromise the safety and quality of care. Without a dependable inspection schedule, the system is vulnerable to lapses in care such as:
- A critical imbalance between the ratio of personal support workers and patients
- Abuses in prescribing anti-psychotic drugs as a quick fix for treating patients with dementia
- Increase in private care facilities cutting corners and understaffing
- Compromised hygienic conditions
- Increase in instances of falling
- Patients being prematurely released from hospitals and into long-term care facilities
- Elder abuse
Elder abuse is one of the most underreported crimes in Canada. One study estimates that only 20% of incidents of elder abuse ever come to the attention of a person who can be of assistance.
In the case of Caressant Care Woodstock Nursing Home, there were clear red flags illustrated by the ratings posted by Nursing Home Ratings.ca.
As the details begin to emerge on possible motives behind the actions of Nurse Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer, we must be careful not to make assumptions or correlations to the good work being done by gold standard long-term care homes.
Still, it is a call to action to reassess the state of our long-term care facilities. It’s time to put the same attention to end-of –life care as we do to all other healthcare issues to ensure our elderly citizens are treated with integrity in their final stages of life.
If you would like to see how your community nursing home measures up, download here.
For a checklist on what to look for in a long-term care facility, click here.