Improving care quality and safety for nearly 80,000 residents in long-term care homes requires the “political will and a non-partisan approach” by Ontario’s political parties to pass legislation that mandates a daily four hour resident care standard, said a resident family advocates and front line care staff, at a North Bay media conference today.

They encouraged all party support for private member’s legislation (Bill 33) introduced this October that would make a daily care standard for residents, law. Commonly referred to as the ‘Time to Care’ Act, the legislation would also permit the minimum hours to increase by regulation, as care needs of residents increase. The majority of long-term care residents are over 80 years old and have multiple chronic conditions, including dementia. Nearly one-in-seven residents has some form of cognitive impairment.

“I know that, even by having just a few minutes more time each day to spend supporting and caring for residents it would make a profound difference on their well-being, on their quality of care, on their safety. And it would make such a difference on the morale of staff who work very hard during the little time they have now to complete tasks and provide care. Family members need piece of mind knowing that their loved ones are safe and getting good care,” said Amanda Farrow-Giroux, a Registered Practical Nurse who works in long-term care in the North Bay area.

Tragic and horrifying stories coming from several Ontario long-term care homes this month should “underscore for the government and the opposition parties the pressing need for a legislated daily care standard that would increase resident care quality and safety. It’s unfathomable that they would not act cooperatively, following the events of the last month,” said Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) and CUPE Ontario First Vice-President.

Resident family members, said Tom Carrothers, chair of the Advocacy Committee of Family Councils, “see the need for more care every day. We have been advocating for a care standard for years. We see Bill 33 as a badly needed Act to ensure our loved ones have adequate care.”

There is considerable academic research that shows care levels for residents in nursing homes must increase and that residents with dementia would benefit.

The findings of a Canadian-led international research study, Promising Practices in Long-Term Care indicate that better care quality hinges on promoting a care relationship between the resident and caregiver, which requires adequate staff and an appropriate mix of staff. According to the research, good staffing levels promote personal relationships with residents, which is good for morale all around.

The study concludes that, “direct care staffing should be set at a minimum of 4.1 hours per resident each day.” The research also shows that in countries with higher resident care and staffing levels, care quality is better, resident-on-resident violence is lower, as is the use of medications.