Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne arrived at Tabor Manor retirement home in St.Catharines on Thursday (Nov. 9) to continue her discussion on government plans to aid Ontario’s seniors.
The plan, entitled “Aging with Confidence,” outlines the shifting needs of a population that is becoming Ontario’s fastest-growing age group (65 years and older). The $155-million strategy focuses attention on meeting the inclusive, self-determined, diverse, safety and security needs of all seniors in the province according to the Aging with Confidence outline.
“There are lots of questions we are struggling with as a society about how to treat each other with dignity as we age,” Wynne said. “I think that generally, we as a whole have not done a great job in understanding how we can help each other through transitions of aging.”
Wynne announced the strategy earlier this week at Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre in Hamilton. She promised 5,000 long-term care beds in the next four years. Also, the number of hours of long-term care will also be increased from three-and-a-half to four hours daily for residents in long-term care homes.
Wynne acknowledged that there is much more to the strategy, but long-term care issues are urgent, including in places like Tabor Manor.
“We don’t want to oversimplify the solutions,” she said. “But this needs to happen because there are organizations like this one that needs the ability to expand. This is to provide the excellent environment that you want to and know you’re capable of.”
“Building long-term beds are a part of this,” Wynne said.
Tabor Manor CEO Tim Siemens was glad to see changes coming for residents and prospective residents in long-term care he considers to be part of a growing, unified campus of care.
“For years our associations in the not-for-profit and for-profit sector have announced to the government that we need more boots on the floor,” Siemens said. “Getting the hours of care from three and a half to four hours a day goes a long way in supporting senior long-term care.”
The Aging with Confidence outline raised some questions concerning capacity and infrastructure. Most long-term care homes are stand-alone buildings and the government wanted public input as to whether or not this needs to change. Tabor Manor operates as a campus of care for over 600 people with a range of housing options and services within a single community. Siemens admitted to his bias but feels there is no question that implementing more campuses of care makes the most sense.
“In an environment where we are about inclusivity, diversity but also building community unity, this happens best in campuses of care for senior citizens,” Siemens said. “With a focus on creating more campuses of care, where a range of housing and support services are available for seniors that allow them to transition across the housing and health continuum, I can’t see a better model than that.”
At Tabor Manor, attendees were on board for the coming changes but some were skeptical about the government’s pledge for staffing increases in long-term-care.
“With government, you can’t always rely on everything that’s said,” personal care worker Rachael Meninger said. “But I hope there is more staffing, especially for somebody like me who is a night staff.”
“One person and 32 residents, that’s a lot to put on one person so if we get more staffing, even two at night, it would really help,” Meninger added.
Between 2003 and 2017, Ontario has added almost 900 new specialized staff to care for residents with responsive behaviours such as dementia. Also, there has been an increase in investments for Behavioural Supports Ontario to provide enhanced support for long-term care home residents with these challenging behaviours according to Aging with Confidence.
Registered practical nurse Racquel Mills wanted to see more early education leading students into the sector. Mills said some Peel and Durham region high schools are making this routine but it must be more widespread. She also emphasized the need for collaboration between the government, colleges and high schools to come to a better understanding and management of spectrum disorders.
“My main concern is for a bigger push of (PSW) and health programs in high-school education,” Mills said. “If students had more knowledge like they do with the trades that would be an added plus for the industry of healthcare. We need to touch base early on with spectrum disorders, especially dementia because these things are not taught in (PSW) and nursing programs.”
For a full list of details on the action plan of Aging with Confidence, you can download the following pdf link