The Need for LTC Support Continues

When Betty Hope Gittens and I founded the Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa in 2008, we asked ourselves – What can we do to enhance the lives of seniors living in non-profit long-term care (LTC)? Both my grandmothers were in LTC homes a few years earlier, and I saw first-hand that more had to be done.

Non-profit LTC has come a long way, with enhanced programming, more effective in-home foundations, enhanced training, and better equipment. However, there continues to be a constant struggle to have sufficient resources for residents to receive the quality of care (and sufficient attention) that they deserve. The reality is, many residents still rely heavily on family members (or outside caregivers) to help them be more mobile, take their medication on time, and eat sufficiently and regularly. Family councils at each of the LTC homes are the voices for those who do not have one.

LTC is not broken, but the system of LTC has always been fragile due to chronic under-funding and staffing shortages. Community foundations like the Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to help address some of these shortfalls – to enhance the quality of life of seniors living in LTC. Thousands of caring and generous donors have stepped up, but again, funding gaps remain (as the gaps were just too big to start with).

As we are seeing now, the system is on its knees due to COVID-19. The fragility of the system is now in full view to everyone across Canada, although this has been known and advocated for many, many years by those who work in the system.

Worst of all, personal dignity has left the home. Some residents are dying alone, unable to spend their final moments with their loved ones. Others are neglected due to insufficient staff (which were previously complemented by family caregivers). Only now are we starting to see some of those family members allowed back into the LTC homes.

What do our seniors deserve? What would we deserve if we were relying on long-term care? Years from now, many of us working professionals will require a strong LTC system, either for ourselves or those we love. Ask yourself – if you were being cared for in LTC, what would you expect (or demand) in terms of care and quality of life?

I am not suggesting that we have an answer to a lethal virus that is obliterating our elderly and affecting so many of us around the world, but we can still do our part to show our elderly that they do matter. That we still value them.

Five years ago, my friend Frank Horvat and I wrote The Dignity Song, a tribute to our elderly and in recognition of the importance of maintaining their dignity, to ensure that they continue to matter in a world that has moved past them. The song’s meaning continues to be relevant. We need to help restore dignity into the LTC system. We need to let our elderly know that they are still important to us, and we will fight for them.

What can you do? Listen to the song. Share it. Donate to Eldercare. Funds raised will be used to help bring some dignity back into LTC. Donate to the LTC home in your neighbourhood. Support those family caregivers who are stressed and filled with worry that they cannot visit their loved ones. Advocate for government change. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Or simply hear our words, and the voices of our elderly who have given us so much and been left with so little.

Adam Nihmey,

Founder, Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa

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