There are two separate issues that face failing seniors and their families. Number one is the right to information as an adult child or caregiver. Privacy laws must not prevent outside agencies from contacting us and informing us that a senior parent has entered their client list. Many of us do not realize how ill an elderly parent is when neighbours and agencies provide care that masks the desperate ADL and IADL needs of seniors. This must be changed.
For those alone, and without a patient advocate, they face illness alone, and may e in a state of delirium or dementia. They risk polypharmacy and end up in hospital, as a bed blocker (for more info read this PDF file from the Advocay Centre for the Elderly), with no where to go.
The second issue of concern is long-term care. With only two options--caring for seniors at home with extra supports, or LTC--there is nothing in the middle, or at the far end of the spectrum. LTC facilities do not do well with seniors who require chronic care. They do not have the financial and physical supports necessary.
It would appear that there is little in the way of real funding for us in LTC through the provincial budgets. This is true of education and mental and physical health care. It is a shame that we spend so much money on focus groups and invest donor-fatigued time and energy by volunteers in giving advice. Many have their own personal agendas.
We should examine the requirements of residents in LTC and determine what they need and want from the system. What is missing is a level of care that falls between the hospital and chronic care centres. We need more chronic care centres, as well as facilities in which those who have had strokes and have other treatable illnesses, can be supported and their physical health improved.
LTC facilities now house those who are too healthy for the hospital, but require RN help daily. They are also filled with those whose families cannot care for them at home due to environmental, physical, or emotional barriers. An LTC home can have a variety of residents with dementia, stroke victims, cancer patients, and those with brain damage, and these folks complicate a system. Every resident is treated equally, while they are not “equal.” I would like to see a care plan that determines the health care issues of each resident and finds the appropriate placement on a continuum from total care to partial care. We need group homes where those with schizophrenia or other mental disorders can be accommodated. We need homes where those who are functioning cognitively have their physical needs managed with dignity and respect. We need more resources for those who fall through the cracks.