The last few weeks have brought a couple more horrific stores of elder abuse in well-established long-term care homes. It tears at your heart to hear what was endured by a few of the most vulnerable people in our society. And the video that was secretly taped by a family member is heartbreaking. The mainstream media and social media are raging against long-term care homes that have allowed this to happen and figuratively calling for the heads of the perpetrators. Rightly so. This behaviour by caregivers is completely and utterly unacceptable.
However in the midst of the outcry I feel it is critical that we be reminded that this is not the norm. I have worked in human resources in long-term care for fifteen years and can tell you that this is not commonplace. It is absolutely the exception not the rule.
I am continually saddened and frustrated by the approach the media and the government take to long-term care. No attention is paid until there is a singular incident. Then the media swoops in and runs articles and clips decrying the care of the elderly in Ontario which is almost always followed by the government introducing new regulations so they can say they took it seriously. One incident is followed by rules that impact hundreds of Homes that have never had an incident. There seems to be little - reflection on whether the new regulation will actually make Homes safer or just cause more administrative work and reporting that takes staff away from providing direct care.
And most frustrating of all is the complete absence of any acknowledgement of the wonderful work that happens in Homes every day - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. I am constantly amazed by the compassion and commitment to care that I regularly see in Homes. I work with nurses who have made a career choice to work with the elderly rather than in acute care hospitals because that is their passion - even if it means they are getting paid less than hospital nurses. I see personal support workers who toilet, bathe, feed, comfort, entertain and laugh with residents with hearts full of love and compassion.
There are very few people in our society that would be willing and able to do this work let alone choose to make caring for the elderly their career. So while you are reading about the stories of elder abuse, please take a moment to remember these are exceptions. Take a moment to reflect on and thank those who tirelessly look after our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers and give them the love and care that we are not always able to do day in and day out.
Elizabeth Hill, Partner & Senior Consultant Pesce & Associates Human Resources Consultants June 7, 2013