Reporting Canada’s Future for Long Term Care – 1

A busy time as fall approaches, for discussion on our future for Long Term Care. As mentioned in my Sept.10 post, the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) in partnership with the Global Ageing Network begins their conference today titled This is Long Term Care 2019.

Perhaps by coincidence, last Tuesday the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) released its initial report in a series of three – Enabling the Future Provision of Long Term Care in Canada – so as I am unable to attend the OLTCA conference, at least I am immersed in reading through the over 150-page NIA report.

Likely, this is not the first report on the subject you or I will have seen. It is a timely update however, and upon my initial quick read, it is worthy to note that if you are familiar or even not with the whole health and caregiving system and all its components; if you have or have not yet experienced long term care first-hand, then this report is a perfect place to start. Allow yourself some time to weed through the terminology, acronyms and statistics.

Chunking out parts of the report, my first go to is around language, or terminology if you will, particularly around the role and value of caregivers. It gives me great pleasure to say that the NIA took specific aim at correcting something that has bothered me for ages. In so many articles, reports and even academic papers on older adults and caregiving, the term “informal caregivers” is applied. As I always say in any speech or article on this subject – there is nothing informal about it.

For me this report lays this to rest for good: “The NIA also pairs the term ‘caregiver’ with ‘unpaid’ as Stall et al. (2019) helped to determine that this pairing of words is preferred by those providing unpaid care. Stall et al. (2019) further noted that the term ‘informal’ caregiver should be avoided as many unpaid caregivers may fi­nd this term insulting and invalidating.”

Absolutely right in my view. When sorting through any awkwardness we may have with the language in the caregiving continuum, we have to start somewhere and move on, so further, NIA says (and I accept), “When referring to a caregiver who is paid for their services, the NIA uses the term ‘care provider’.  Speaking of those providers, the NIA in this report acknowledges their value or maybe more to the point, that they are often undervalued:

“Front-line care providers across Canada’s long-term care sector have generally been underappreciated, overworked, and underpaid, despite being the teams and individuals who care for the most frail, vulnerable, and complex amongst us.”

This comes full circle to today’s Workforce Summit segment of the OLTCA conference in Toronto, the focus of which is on international long-term care including home-based care, primary care models, skilled home health (versus acute care), and social care.” Among other items, this one-day summit will address:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Building a pipeline of talent, adapting to a new generation of workers
  • Effective training including standards, cultural competency, bridging cross-national differences

Considering this alongside the NIA report which is an important education piece for all Canadians, it would be great if the OLTCA shared its summary report and proposed action plan with all of us.

Would it not also be wonderful if we had a summit open to all the unpaid caregivers? Those of us  described in 2016 by the Change Foundation (and adopted in the NIA report) as: “family, friends, neighbours – who provide critical and ongoing personal, social, psychological and physical support, assistance and care, without pay, for loved ones in need of support due to frailty, illness, degenerative disease, physical/cognitive/mental disability of end of life circumstances.”

In the meantime, if you are looking for a good read directed at unpaid caregivers, the Change Foundation, an independent health policy think tank formed in 1995, has a download on their website from November 2018, titled Spotlight on Ontario’s Caregivers. While this may be Ontario focused, there is no doubt that any reader can take something from it and thus conduct further research and compare it to what is happening in their part of the world.

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