Toronto Star: Nursing Homes Don’t Have to Be Grim, Depressing Places

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Pat Armstrong, Sociologist from York University, is attending the BCCPA Annual Conference from May 29-31.

The following is an article published on Friday in the Toronto Star by reporter Carol Goar. BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) members will have the chance to hear from Pat Armstrong, a Sociologist from York University featured in the article, in person as she will be attending the BCCPA Annual Conference from May 29-31 in Whistler, B.C.

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By: Carol Goar – Star Columnist, Published on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

The harder the Ontario government beats the drum for home care, the more worried York University sociologist Pat Armstrong becomes.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can care for everybody at home. There will always be people who need 24-hour nursing care. We can’t neglect them.”

Currently 76,000 vulnerable seniors live in nursing homes. Thousands more are on regional waiting lists. Hospitals consider them “bed blockers.” Private retirement residences aren’t equipped to meet their needs. Their families can’t take care of them or get enough home care to keep them clean, safe and stable.

“I think we see nursing homes as a symbol of failure — failure of the individuals to care for themselves, of families to care for older people, of the medical system to cure them,” Armstrong said. “It’s something we don’t want to think about because we intend to avoid such places when we grow old.”

That attitude has led to underfunding, understaffing, low wages and high turnover in nursing homes. Care providers don’t have time to listen to residents, respond to their needs, help them eat, talk to them or alleviate their boredom. Food service workers lock the dining room between meals. Clothes vanish in the laundry. Government-required paperwork takes precedence over caregiving. It is not unusual to see a dozen seniors — some with dementia, some in wheelchairs, some heavily sedated — lined up in front of a television staring vacantly at a rerun of I Love Lucy.

“They deserve better,” Armstrong thought. So she pulled together a team of 26 researchers from six countries (Canada, Britain, Sweden, Germany, the United States and Australia) to reimagine institutional long-term care. Could it be a humane, dignified, financially viable option?

The team included doctors, pharmacists, architects, economists, psychologists, social workers, historians, philosophers and communication experts. It began by collecting success stories from Europe and North America and identifying the most promising practices and best ideas in the field.

Click here to read the full article from the Toronto Star.