Long-term and home care

Long-term care resident with family member.

Federal Retirees is calling on all levels of government to improve long-term care.

Federal Retirees is calling on all levels of government to collaborate to fix long-term care.

In response to the devastating conditions in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Retirees called on all levels of government to collaborate on a national review of long-term care and the urgent need for national standards for long-term care.

More than 18,000 of our members joined our call for better long-term care.

With long-term care standards now announced, it’s time to redouble our efforts to ensure quality and equitable care for Canadians. And that starts with making sure those standards are implemented, enforceable and funded with accountability. 

That’s why we’re launching the next phase of our campaign, calling for long-term care standards to be implemented and enforced through accountability tied to funding. To ensure the standards we’ve worked so hard for are actualized, it’s crucial that provincial and territorial governments are held responsible for the way they treat long-term care residents and that their funding is at stake.

Why this matters

COVID-19 and older adult care

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw outbreaks of the virus and deaths in many long-term care homes across the country as well as struggles to source personal protective equipment, implement safety protocols and maintain staffing levels in long-term care facilities. The military was even called in to provide support to the hardest-hit facilities and shocking military reports revealed deplorable conditions in some of these facilities. 

We also learned the shocking truth that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term care during the first wave of the pandemic. Over 17,000 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19, in Canada.

Just as it exposed and aggravated problems within the long-term care system, the COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected home and community care. Clients experienced reduced access to some services, like bathing and cleaning, which were — unbelievably — deemed non-essential.

Informal caregivers, who provide an estimated 80 per cent of community care and 30 per cent of institutional care, also took on more during the pandemic. They dealt with increased stress and additional duties while respite care and other services they rely on were cut back, and governments offered them virtually no support, financial or otherwise.

COVID-19 has drawn attention to the long-standing gaps in Canada’s older adult care. In doing so, it has also provided us with a valuable opportunity.

We must use this opportunity to rethink older adult care in Canada and create a person-centred system that incorporates best practices from around the world.

Transforming older adult care

Transforming older adult care requires a different approach, with an emphasis on providing care at home and in the community so that Canadians can age in place. It means implementing and enforcing national standards for long-term care, home care and other older adult care, to ensure a baseline level of quality care for older Canadians, regardless of where they live.

Governments — and likely the federal government — will need to enact laws that support this new direction. The Canada Health Act, which outlines Canada’s health-care framework, establishes criteria, conditions and funding related to insured health services. However, it focuses on hospitals and physicians, the services most Canadians needed when the legislation was drafted. By 2046, the population aged 85 and older could triple to almost 2.5 million people! Canada’s aging population means the needs of Canadians have changed, and our health-care framework must keep pace.

Federal Retirees’ vision for older adult care

One of Federal Retirees’ advocacy priorities is the implementation of a national seniors strategy, which means quality and equitable health-care services for all older Canadians, and policy, programs and services that allow older adults to age with dignity, in the place of their choosing.

This requires a national pivot from delivering care in institutional settings, like hospitals and long-term care, to providing these services in homes and communities. It will require resource and system shifts to move us toward an expansion of home and community care services, which are less costly, allow Canadians to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible and generally lead to better health outcomes and quality of life. To ensure quality and equitable care for all older Canadians, national standards for both long-term care and home and community care must be implemented and enforced.

What we’ve done

In response to the devastating conditions in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Retirees called on all levels of government to collaborate on a national review of long-term care. This national review would focus on implementing a national framework for long-term care with appropriate levels of funding and accountability, establishing a national health workforce planning strategy and supporting informal caregivers who are crucial partners in delivering care to residents.

Federal retirees sent nearly 18,000 letters to their local MPs demanding that governments address the problems in long-term and home care once and for all and ensure equitable and quality care for all Canadians.

In early 2023, national long-term care standards were announced. These standards were developed under the leadership of Dr. Samir Sinha, who acted as chair of the technical committee that developed the standards with collaboration between the Health Standards Organization (HSO) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

The standards were developed with a rigorous, evidence-based process, led by experts and with the full participation of people with lived experience, with multiple public and focused consultations. The resulting standards provide a minimum standard of care and service delivery along with infection prevention and control.

The mandate for the project did not require adoption of the new standards to become mandatory.

That’s why we are asking governments to implement the standards.

What we’re doing now

Federal Retirees was pleased to see the recent release of national standards for long-term care by the federal government, and to see our members’ feedback reflected in the final report. We were also impressed by the quality of work done by the Health Standards Organization, building on groundwork done by the Canadian Standards Association.

However, there is still work to be done. The standards are voluntary, and this is a problem. Enforceability and regulation, while difficult in a federal system, are needed to make a real difference.

And so, Federal Retirees is continuing to campaign for the national long-term care standards to be implemented, with funding and accountability.

While the announced standards offer demonstrably better standards of care and infection prevention and control, they do not address all the elements that have been flagged as problematic with the long-term care sector. For example, the standards left out the funding status of long-term care (non-profit, public, for-profit). They also failed to address the fact that some factors that contributed to the worst outcomes in long-term care were more likely to occur in for-profit settings and less likely to occur in publicly funded settings.

The standards do not cover enforcement, mandatory accreditation or accountability and dedicated funding for long-term care. Dr. Sinha has been clear that “the standards are only useful if... they become the basis of enforcement and accountability measures, not only accreditation measures” and that he is concerned the standards will simply sit on a shelf.

This is why Federal Retirees is launching the next phase of our long-term care campaign —- to call for long-term care standards that are enforceable, with funding tied to accountability.

How you can get involved

Send a letter to your representative

Send a letter to your member of Parliament and your representative in your provincial/territorial legislature to let them know:

  • Now is the time to fix long-term and home care for good.
  • We need enforceable national standards with accountability tied to funding.
  • Safety in long-term care matters.

Use our easy form to contact your representatives today! We’ve already put together a message for you, but feel free to add to it or write your own.

Send a letter to the editor

Send a letter to your local media with our easy-to-use online tool.

You can customize our pre-written letter with additions of your own or send it as-is, with the click of a button!

Meet your MP

Members of Parliament (MPs) and provincial and territorial representatives should represent the interests of constituents in their riding — and that means listening to what you have to say.

As one of their constituents, you should let them know how you feel about older adult care and the need for changes to the way long-term care and home care are managed, funded and regulated in Canada.

Use our meeting kit — complete with speaking notes and questions to ask — to talk to your MP today.