Long-term care solutions abound

Opinion

To the Editor:

COVID-19 has swept the world and has inflicted profound change on many aspects of society.

Long-term care is one example of that change. It is also an example of a segment of society whose problems the coronavirus magnified.

Something renowned urban planner Jane Jacobs once said is a guidepost for the journey to where the delivery of long-term care needs to go. She said it is less important to formulate policy for how to plan things like cities than it is to look around, see what works and apply it.

My 17 years serving on the board of directors for the Windsor Elms Village long-term care facility — including two and a half years chairing the board — exposed me to how the correct models of care, governance, staff and building design meet the high standards required for residents in their declining years to live and die with dignity.

Board and staff agreed we needed to improve or replace the original residence in Windsor. We made a successful case to the government of the day to include the Elms in their ambitious plan for long-term care replacement beds that included retaining the Elms’ number of 108 beds. The result was a new facility that opened in 2010 in nearby Falmouth.

Planning included sending senior staff members to long-term care centres of excellence located in Saskatchewan and Wisconsin. What followed included learning and executing what is called the Eden Model of Care. It is worthwhile for everyone — not just the elderly and their caregivers — to look up what are called the Ten Principles of the Eden Alternative and how they address the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom. Other homes have the Eden model and the Elms facility is one of them.

The Elms also shows how important design is regarding the utmost quality of long-term care. Its 108 beds are divided into three villages with each containing 36 beds. Each village contains four neighbourhoods each with nine beds. The front-line workers are directly responsible to attend the individual needs of the residents they serve. It makes sense that key decisions are made by those most familiar with those residents.

Shiretown in Pictou and Ivey’s Terrace in Trenton were designed by the same architect and built by the same project manager as the Elms. The Elms had a different contractor. The lessons learned from these projects will go a long way toward raising the overall level of care across the province and ensuring more and better long-term care outcomes.

Some beds will not be replaced in homes that have existed for a generation or more. They can still provide a high level of care. The long-term care home where my mother lives near London, Ont. is a case in point. It offers top-notch service despite the home’s age. Residents have been reasonably safe, given precautions taken during the COVID-19 era, and mother is in mainly good health despite her 97 years.

Both places underscore the need for single-room occupancy, with some flexibility for spouses, but away from the situations with three and four people in one room.

All this being said, what the province needs to commit to is beyond the replacement beds that represent the last major government spending on long-term care. We need several hundred new LTC beds to release the logjam from the numerous hospital beds that LTC candidates currently occupy.

We have little time. Governments are distracted by the chaos COVID-19 has caused, but more long-term care beds soon will allow us to check off at least one of those problems.

Someone once said it is easier to do something right than it is to explain why we did it wrong.

It’s time to get long-term care right.

Steve Goodwin

New Glasgow