How Safe Are Long-Term Care Homes?

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In November of 2016, an 82-year-old resident in a long-term care home was charged with manslaughter in the death of another man who resided in the home.  It is alleged that Keith Wood 79, was assaulted and suffered blunt force trauma to the head that led to his death two weeks after the alleged incident. When we turn our loved ones over to long-term care, we do not expect our loved ones to be hurt let alone murdered. How safe are long-term care homes anyway?

Both residents resided at Camilla Care Community, a senior’s home with 237 beds right next to Trillium Health Centre. This home was previously called Leisure World. This is sadly a tragic incident that seems to be occurring more frequently.  In the last article, I shared that prior to being admitted to a long-term care home in this province, there is a very comprehensive assessment that is administered by a qualified care coordinator.

The coordinators must also assess the potential resident’s behaviours in the community prior to being admitted to a long-term care home.  Now if certain behaviors are observed there are professionals and services that can be put in place in the community to address the behaviours prior to being admitted to a long-term care home.

The very first incident that resulted in the murder of a resident in a long-term care home was in incident at Casa Verde in 2001.  The family did not disclose information about the resident’s angry outbursts, and subsequently the resident bludgeoned two people to death and seriously injured another with the foot rest of a wheel chair.

Subsequently the Ministry has invested money in hiring professionals who specialize in helping people control their behaviours with various strategies prior to being accepted in a long-term care home.  Now if a patient is in a long-term care home and they have certain behaviors, they may be placed in a behavioural unit.  If the behaviour is difficult to control, based on long-term care legislation, the resident can be transferred out of the long-term care home to special behavioural units for specified lengths of time.  

The Alzheimer’s society is an organization that provides information and support to those who have certain behaviours and their families.

There are processes in place in the long-term care homes to deal with incidents that occur.  One thing to remember is that the lack of staffing in some of these homes can make it difficult to get to the person being assaulted.  It is also important to note that if someone has always had a propensity to be angry and abusive sometimes coupled with dementia makes the behaviour worse.  People do not magically change their behaviour when they age. This is a misnomer.  When I speak with some of the social workers in the homes, I am told that behaviors are on the rise.  For the most part people who reside in long-term care homes tend to get along fairly well.  They make friends and share in the living arrangements.

Care coordinators are keenly aware that they must also be vigilant in protecting those who are vulnerable in long-term care homes.  Not every person seeking long-term care will be admitted to a long-term care home as was indicated in last week’s article, there is an assessment process to determine eligibility and specific criteria must be met.

It is important to recognize that we have an aging population that is growing.  It would behove the powers that be to come up with a national strategy for seniors and specifically seniors with behaviours requiring long-term care or we could be faced with more incidents of violence leading to the death of vulnerable seniors in long-term care.

This article is dedicated to Mac Boyce and Dr. Patricia Keith.


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