Originally, I had planned to have a section on seniors as part of my previous post on a post-COVID world. There was just too much to say and it was important enough to make this topic a separate post.
If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s demonstrated how fragile our senior care sector is in Canada. Massive outbreaks of the coronavirus have caused thousands of deaths, deaths that have not had any family members present when they pass. Reduced care in the name of cost cutting in private care homes left seniors uncared for, unattended. Actions by the government towards children (daycare, school and student aid) have been generous; the same care to Seniors is almost non-existent. Ontario and Quebec have called in the army medics to care for the elderly and sick in the worst hit long-term care homes. Workers in Private care homes are severely underpaid and over worked. COVID-19 has shown that some workers would rather not show up for work than risk going through a day in poor working conditions.
COVID has opened the eyes of government to see that more oversight and regulation in the care of seniors is a must. Yes, this will have a huge cost to the public purse. The Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care should have a budget reflects this urgency. Private care providers are not 100% to blame; previous governments have left the sector short of beds, with less accountability and those that cannot pay, live out their last days in less than adequate accommodations.
Like the economy, life after COVID is an opportunity for government to make a statement. A statement that says ‘our seniors will receive the care they need and where they want to receive it’ is needed by the government. Greater accommodation to those that care for their parents is needed. In the same manner parents receive benefits to care for children, those that look after their parents require the same consideration.
For six weeks now, everyone is experiencing what many seniors do every day, social isolation from family and loved ones. Younger adults have weathered this better than seniors, we have the ability to move around our homes and don’t need the level of care of seniors. What COVID has created is ‘disiting’*, visiting our elderly parents and grandparents while practicing physical distancing. Window visits.
As governments after COVID study and react to what’s happened, those who campaigned on more beds (all political parties have done this in Ontario) will comprehend that this is no longer the answer – better care and more recognition of the caregivers is the urgent matter. Questions, like how we make it possible to keep seniors in their homes and how can virtual care help those seniors that live in their own homes. Proper financial compensation for Personal Care Workers should be the first action taken, Ontario’s decision to create Pandemic Pay is proof of that.
The first act of government in an eased COVID restrictions world should examine the practice of how these care facilities are run, both the private and public. The practice of paying less to make a care home more profitable, reducing staff to part-time and contract staff have proven ineffective and has been part of the collapse of long-term care in Canada these past 6 weeks. That these frontline workers are forced to work in more than one facility needs to be addressed. Nursing and caring for seniors is not an easy job, it should not be compensated like it is either.
Unlike the decisions to be made about the economy and Parliament in a post-COVID world, changing how we care for seniors she old be easy. Governments, federal and provincial, must lead in the change in caring for seniors. Creating ministerial departments for seniors should be more than token representation on both Federal and Provincial levels. The health, care and well-being of our seniors and the entire healthcare sector should be reviewed critically.
Past governments should accept the blame, along with current governments, for the crisis that came out of COVID. It is the current governments that will be judged on how they come out of COVID and the actions they took. There are very high expectations.
*I did not create the word disiting, I have seen it several times online and in print.
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