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If you’ve been attuned to the news of late, you may have seen headlines referring to a lawsuit about to be launched against some long-term care home chains alleging failures in resident care. While we wait for an outcome, the story serves as a reminder that we can all do more to help prevent abuse.
By way of background, there are now regulations in place that require Ontario long-term care homes and retirement homes to protect residents from abuse by anyone and from neglect by staff or the licensee. Their policies that promote zero tolerance of abuse and neglect must set out, among other things, provisions for a program to prevent abuse and neglect; procedures for investigating and responding to alleged, suspected or witnessed abuse or neglect; and consequences for those who abuse or neglect residents.
So in my province things have moved in a positive direction (I can’t comment on other provinces' regulations as I have not researched them). But it is still important that family members and friends understand what constitutes abuse and attend to any signs of it.
What is abuse?
Abuse can take many forms: it can be physical or sexual or it can take the form of neglect (the failure to provide proper care). It can also be financial or emotional. According to Elder Abuse Ontario, emotional abuse is “any action, verbal or non-verbal, that lessens a person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth.”
Elder Abuse Ontario produces education materials on elder abuse that can aid in detecting, preventing and stopping abuse. These can be found at: www.elderabuseontario.com/what-is-elder-abuse/prevention/
Tips on helping prevent abuse
The following tips were adapted from: Luh, J. & Dupuis, S. (2004). Recognizing and Preventing Elder Abuse in Long-Term Care Settings: Recommendations for Families. Innovations: Enhancing Ability in Dementia Care, 3(3), 1-4.
Before a move into a home:
- Understand the resident’s rights: most homes post a copy of the Resident’s Bill of Rights in a common area but you can also find them online:
Long-term care homes - www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/everyres
Retirement homes - www.rhra.ca/en/residents-bill-of-rights/
- Ask about the home’s policies on abuse prevention and investigation procedures
- In long-term care homes, ask about their behavioural supports team and approaches to responsive behaviours*
*Responsive behaviours refer to how someone with dementia or another condition may communicate discomfort. Behavioural Supports Ontario helps fund the hiring and training of specialized staff to support approaches that help reduce aggressive behaviour, antipsychotic use, and the use of restraints. Approaches may differ from home to home: for example, a "gentle care approach" may allow residents more flexibility in routines and music therapy, sensory experiences, or the Montessori approach (which engages residents in activities they find rewarding) can all reduce anxiety.
After the move:
- Become involved: volunteer, participate in care planning meetings, and become a member of the family council (long-term care homes only)
- Develop a collaborative relationship with your loved one’s caregivers
- Visit the home regularly and at different times and days of the week so staff do not anticipate your being there
- Be observant: monitor the care and watch how staff treat other residents when their families are not around
- Talk to a trusted staff about any concerns you have about the resident’s care
- Advocate for residents by highlighting to the administration, as appropriate, the need for additional zero tolerance promotion and training
- If an incident occurs, carefully document the details so you can provide as much information as possible when speaking to the administration and reporting the incident
Reporting suspected abuse
As noted in the Community Legal Education Ontario publication Elder Abuse: The hidden crime (https://www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/elderab#full), anyone who sees or suspects resident abuse in a long-term care or retirement home is required to report it (an exception applies to residents themselves who can choose to report).
To report suspected abuse in a long-term care home, contact the Director at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care at 1-866-434-0144.
To report suspected abuse in a retirement home, contact the Registrar of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority at 1-855-275-7472.
For additional information
This post can’t possibly cover all the pertinent information on elder abuse prevention. The following organizations provide further direction and more in-depth information about recognizing, preventing and stopping elder abuse:
Community Legal Education Ontario (www.cleo.on.ca)
The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (http://www.advocacycentreelderly.org)
Elder Abuse Ontario (http://www.elderabuseontario.com)
Want to know whether Home Once Again could help you navigate your search and find the right home faster? Contact me today for a free initial consultation.
About the author
Teresa Schnurr felt called to open Home Once Again while searching for long-term care for her mother, then for a retirement home for her mother-in-law. Teresa's background in long-term care research helped a great deal but she realized through these searches that most people faced with such tasks had little background knowledge to guide them through their many choices, rules and regulations.