Letter: We need an overhaul of long-term care so we value our elderly and other vulnerable residents
RN Timea Andersen responds to an earlier letter from retired RN Diana Sebera:
I was very glad to read such a clear, informative letter from the LTC nurse which you included here. I have always had great appreciation for the calling of nurses working in both palliative and geriatric settings. Clearly, a tremendous amount of education of both other nurses and medical personnel as well as the general public is required about the stigmas and the value our elderly and vulnerable people have to our society as well our obligations to them, whether we know them or not.
I would like to emphasise to you and our parliamentarians what has been my opinion ever since I started nursing and has been evidenced by what happened in LTC homes in Quebec. If governments refuse to help the facilities pay ALL their employees at LEAST the SAME SCALE to hospital workers, even qualified, hardworking ethical people cannot be expected to take a pay cut to work in areas such as LTC. The working conditions definitely need to be improved but salaries can be adjusted much more quickly and across the board I think. Many more quality, talented individuals could be acquired by LTC facilities if: 1) they didn't have to take a pay cut; 2) can work in a reasonable work environment; 3) if they felt appreciated for the essential work that they do.
Once the higher quality of employees are present in larger numbers than the current system encourages (i.e., not just those very special individuals who recognized their calling early in their careers and were able to put up with the financial challenges and the long time stigma currently associated with that segment), they will be able to find innovative, fiscally responsible as well as compassionate ways to give our vulnerable population the best environment to spend their last days among us.
As an added bonus to us as a society might be that if we can see that our last years on earth are going to be in these well cared for, happier environments, we may stop obsessing and fearing old age and death. I have heard many people over the years saying that "I would rather have my loved ones shoot me than end up in a nursing home". We, as health professionals, politicians and the general population, need to make changes so that not just the wealthy people have access to the kind of care that we all deserve in our twilight years.
Well-off people and young people may believe that this cannot and will not happen to them. Financial reversals are not only possible, they can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, no matter how many contingencies might be in place. This global economic event is current evidence of this. Aging is not an option. It is an incontrovertible fact and it always arrives more quickly then we think. With every decade of my life, time seems to accelerate. I pray that neither myself, nor my husband will be left to die in deplorable conditions such as those in some of the homes in Quebec that I have seen in the media.
I am aware and applaud the RNAO attempts, even prior to COVID-19, to get our legislators and officials to recognize and work toward a timely and complete "overhaul" of LTC. Maybe that will be a silver lining to the otherwise dark cloud of COVID-19. I support and will do whatever I can as an individual and nurse to encourage the reforms that RNAO and other organizations and individuals determine will need to be done so that the preventable events never transpire again.
Our best hope for the future of all, young and old, is that can learn from our mistakes as individuals, organizations and governments and do better in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Timea Andersen, RN