By 2036, nearly one in four Canadians will be over 65. It’s a growing and diverse segment of the population with complex needs. Long-term Care, and the overall capacity and ‘wellness’ of this sector has emerged as one of the most important issues to Canadians at this particular juncture in time. The pandemic has exposed the critical place we are in as a country on the state of long-term care and the urgent action that is required right now in safeguarding our most elderly citizens.
A report released Thursday, March 4th by the National Institute on Ageing in partnership with the Canadian Medical Association has revealed that many Canadians are reflecting on the state of long-term care in our Country. The report is titled, ‘Pandemic Perspectives on Long-Term Care: Insights from Canadians in Light of COVID-19.’
The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is a public policy and research centre based at Ryerson University in Toronto. The NIA is dedicated to enhancing successful ageing across the life course. It is unique in its mandate to consider ageing issues from abroad range of perspectives, including those of financial, physical, psychological,and social well-being.The NIA is focused on leading cross-disciplinary, evidence-based, and actionable research to provide a blueprint for better public policy and practices needed to address the multiple challenges and opportunities presented by Canada’s ageing population.
Pandemic Perspectives Survey (PPS), is important research, undertaken by the NIA in conjunction with The Canadian Medical Association. The results of the research show that Canadians will do whatever is necessary to avoid going into a LongTerm Care (LTC) home. It also highlights ongoing public concern about the state and safety of Canada’s LTC homes — both before and during the pandemic. The NIA’s report, Pandemic Perspectives Survey was completed online, with 2,005 Canadians responding and was released on Thursday, March 4th, 2021.
The NIA and @CMA_Docs have released the findings of an online national survey that gained perspectives of over 2000 Canadians on how the second wave of #COVID19 has impacted Canada’s LTC systems. Read the report https://t.co/6qsbOUKLT5 pic.twitter.com/plGS8K6cDE
— National Institute on Ageing 🇨🇦 (@RyersonNIA) March 5, 2021
Negative perceptions about Canada’s LTC system were stronger among populations most likely to enter LTC settings, namely Canadians aged 65 years and older. The same was true in the regions where LTC settings were hit the hardest by COVID-19, such as Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
Three-quarters (73%) of Canadians surveyed believe that the high number of deaths in LTC homes related to COVID-19 could have been reduced if governments had acted sooner.
The PPS survey found that the majority of Canadians (86%) believe that long-term care should be considered an integrated part of our health system and funded and administered accordingly. 47% rank improving the standards of LTC homes across Canada as one of their top 5 priorities for Canadian leaders, behind preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine (63%), reducing the spread of COVID-19 by enforcing restrictions (57%) and ensuring Canada’s health system is prepared for future pandemics (49%) and ahead of eliminating backlog in health care (44%)
This sentiment increases as Canadians age. In fact, two-thirds (63%) of Canadians aged 65 years and older rank improving the standards of LTC homes as their most important priority after reducing the spread of COVID-19 by enforcing restrictions (63%) and preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine (72%).
The disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in Canadian LTC and retirement homes has led to widespread concerns about the overall state of Canada’s LTC systems. These concerns are more prominent among older Canadians who are nearing or already at the stage of life when they must consider LTC options for themselves. The survey revealed that Canadian women are more concerned about this issue in comparison to men.
The survey has also highlighted concerns about the ability of federal, provincial and territorial governments to protect LTC residents. Only 39% of Canadians trust the federal government to protect LTC residents, and 43% feel this way about their provincial and territorial governments. Despite apprehensions about the ability of governments to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians still believe that solutions to fixing Canada’s LTC systems lie in government action. Specifically, Canadians believe that developing national standards for LTC and better integrating LTC homes into the health care system will be critical steps to restoring trust.
Indeed, both waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have further prompted Canadians to reconsider their perspectives on the state of LTC, while Canada’s older population clearly regard the state of the nation’s LTC systems as an increasingly pressing issue that can no longer be ignored.
"The 2nd wave of the #COVID19 pandemic has done little to restore faith in #LTC. This survey shows that the Canadian public, and older Canadians in particular, have lost trust in their governments’ ability to safeguard LTC residents," said @DrSamirSinha. #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/OW0c8rogXV
— National Institute on Ageing 🇨🇦 (@RyersonNIA) March 4, 2021
As longterm care has risen markedly as a priority issue for Canadians, the federal government announced in the Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23, 2020, a commitment “to work with provinces and territories to set new, national standards for long term care.”
There has been growing public pressure for federal leadership to address the disastrous conditions exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, so movement here is sorely needed.
The throne speech also promised “further targeted measures for personal support workers” to “better value their work and their contribution to society.”
Similarly, the throne speech’s promise to implement “a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system” could also support these workers, given that women still bear the primary responsibility for care in the long-term care sector.
In a media release, the Canadian Nurses Association said they were pleased to see that the current COVID-19 pandemic was placed as the highest priority in order to protect and support people living in Canada, most notably, the elderly. “The government’s promises in the areas of aging and long-term care are positive ones. The pandemic has exposed our lack of preparation for the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases effectively and consistently, particularly in the long-term care sector.”
The National Association of Federal Retirees (NFAFR) president Jean-Guy Soulière said, “The government’s commitment to supporting seniors by establishing new national standards, and to act to ensure people can stay in their homes longer, are wins for older Canadians as well as an example of the strength of Federal Retirees’ advocacy,” says
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Retirees have focused their advocacy efforts on issues related to retirement security and ensuring health care remains strong and sustainable, and on moving governments to fix the troubling circumstances in older adult care. The NFAFR appeared before the House of Commons Human Resources Committee advocating for a national seniors strategy.
While the impact on LTC home residents and staff has been especially acute during the pandemic, Canadians harbour no illusions that the challenges facing LTC homes are the result of COVID-19. In fact, most Canadians believe the challenges facing Canada’s LTC systems predate the pandemic and that COVID-19 only exacerbated them.
81% of all Canadians surveyed agree that the challenges facing LTC homes were evident before the pandemic, and COVID-19 only made them worse. This figure jumps to 92% for Canadians aged 65 years and older. Only around 1 in 4 (26%) respondents believe that LTC homes were safe and operated at high standards before the pandemic. This figure drops to 13% among Canadians aged 65 years and older.
Most Canadians believe that government inaction and failures both before and during the pandemic are to blame for negative outcomes in LTC settings.
Less than half (45%) of Canadians trust their governments to ensure the health and safety of residents in LTC
— National Institute on Ageing 🇨🇦 (@RyersonNIA) March 4, 2021
The survey was conducted by Ipsos online with 2,005 Canadians aged 18 years and older and was completed between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, 2020. The findings have a margin of error of ± 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.