Oct. 12, 2020

Digital forum to explore protecting health and wellbeing of long-term care residents

Speakers in Nov. 17 event to address issues and challenges exposed in care systems by COVID-19

Long-term care homes have become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

Residents of long-term care, supportive living, and retirement homes account for 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in Canada, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This is close to double the average for other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

  • Photo above: Speakers slated for Infection Control vs. Isolation – Striking a Balance for Long-Term Care Residents During COVID-19 are (from left) Dr. Vivian Ewa, MD, Dr. Craig Jenne, PhD, Wayne Morishita, Lisa Poole, Dr. Jim Silvius, MD, and moderator Dr. David Hogan, MD. 

A digital forum on Nov. 17, titled Infection Control vs. Isolation – Striking a Balance for Long-Term Care Residents During COVID-19 and hosted by the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging at the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) O’Brien Institute for Public Health, will bring together infection prevention experts, care providers, policy-makers, facility operators, and families to discuss priorities, practices and policies aimed at protecting health and maintaining the wellbeing of long-term care residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Keeping those most vulnerable to the coronavirus safe, while not undermining their wellbeing by separating them from their families, means striking a balance that has proven difficult to achieve,” says Dr. David Hogan, MD, academic lead for the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging. 

The closing of long-term care facilities when COVID-19 first hit may have helped protect residents from the virus, but the consequences of being isolated from friends and family are serious, says Hogan, a professor in the CSM’s Department of Community Health Sciences“Family members play an essential role in in the lives of residents and without their support residents suffer,” he says.

Lisa Poole is a family care partner. Her father, John, was diagnosed with dementia in 2014 and now resides in long-term care. His facility is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and he has tested positive for the virus.

Poole will share her perspective on quality of life for long-term care residents and their families during a keynote address on Nov. 17. She says the current system sets everybody up for failure. “In preparation for the second wave and future outbreaks there should have been widespread effort to educate families on infection control and safety measures to enable them to be part of solution."

Workforce conditions, including staff ratios, skill levels and burnout, and the exclusion of family members are among the issues that need to be addressed for long-term care facilities to turn the tide on the coronavirus, says Poole. 

As winter approaches, COVID-19 cases in Alberta are on the upswing, both in the community and in long-term care facilities. Hogan says that while he's hopeful facilities are better prepared than they were in the spring, making substantial reform to long-term care will take time. “It's not a flick of a switch type of phenomenon,” he says.

Priorities should be set with the involvement of residents and families as well as care providers, operators, and policy makers, says Hogan. “In congregate settings you have to consider both the desires of the individual and the impact on the group. How to act on those values we share is at the heart of the conversation. This is what will be addressed at the virtual forum.” 

Infection Control vs. Isolation – Striking a Balance for Long-Term Care Residents During COVID-19 is part of the O’Brien Institute’s Anatomy of a Pandemic series.

Additional forum speakers include Dr. Craig Jenne, PhD, an associate professor in the departments of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Disease and Critical Care Medicine, and a member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the CSM, who will present a keynote on infection, prevention and control. Wayne Morishita will give his perspective as executive director of the Alberta Continuing Care Association. Dr. Vivian Ewa, MD, Alberta Health Services medical director for facility living and Dr. Jim Silvius, MD, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the CSM and provincial medical director of seniors health, will provide clinical and system-level insights into addressing these challenges.

Read the full list of presenters and register for the virtual forum on Nov. 17 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. here.