Senior care facilities are dealing with lack of funding and staffing

THUMBBethany HarvestHillsAdvocates and loved ones say that the care provided to senior citizens in Alberta is not only inadequate, it is causing pain.

Senior care facilities’ primary role is to provide care for the seniors who can no longer care for themselves, or have trouble doing so safely. Many care facilities and hospitals do an excellent job of providing this care for these senior citizens.

But there is a growing concern with the lack of acceptable care that is provided in care facilities and there are several opinions on the topic.

Care is below standards

Bill Moore-Kilgannon, the executive director of Public Interest Alberta listed a number of examples where seniors haven’t been treated as they should be. There are horror stories of a grandmother being tied to a toilet, an elderly man being dropped, and a senior left for hours in soiled garments, causing skin breakdown.

“Those are real stories, we’ve heard them time and time again across the province. I’m not making that up. That happens,” said Moore-Kilgannon in an interview last year.

Steve Buick, a spokesman for the Alberta Health Minister, said the Health Care System is a big system that’s very human intensive, which makes it difficult to standardize the care that is given.

“It’s just inevitable that there will be problems,” Buick said, “You know, things will go wrong where individuals have to make choices about other individuals’ care all the time.”

Kristen Lawson, the director of communications and government relations at Bethany Care Society said the average resident of Bethany only stays for about two years, “and typically at the end of their stay, it’s because they passed away.”

“The reality is that people get old and die in long term care,” Buick said. This reality is shocking to families who cannot cope with seeing their loved ones age.

“And so they are shocked and they want someone to be accountable. And no one is accountable for it. It’s just the process of aging and death in a lot of cases,” said Buick.

But not everyone is satisfied with how senior citizens are treated in long-term care facilities inBenthanySundanceOnTheGreen-2Sundance on the Green is a 55 plus life lease care facility located in the S.E. of Calgary.

Photo courtesy of Bethany Care Alberta.

“People don’t understand, when these people are there, yes it’s the end of the road for them, it’s their last place, their last home,” said Dennis Dupuis, whose mother died in 2012, “but they do require some personal attention.”

For many care facilities, finding people to volunteer is difficult due to the emotional side of caring for the elderly.

“The majority of the volunteers that we have here at Bethany are people who are former staff or are family members of current or past residents,” said Lawson.

Adequate funding

Sources interviewed by the Calgary Journal feel that most care facilities and employees care about the patients and the families. However when a care facility is not up to the standard, concerned advocates say it is due to a lack of funding and staffing.

“The quality of care is definitely impacted by the lack of staffing that these facilities have and unless these operators start hiring more people, that’s always going to be an issue,” said Sandra Azocar, the executive director of Friends with Medicare.

Staffing at facilities varies according to the levels of care being provided. The numbers of care staff are determined by the government funding for those positions.

Lawson said the government needs to contribute more funding. Right now the provincial government contributes funding for three hours per resident, but for the staff and the residents at Bethany’s care facilities, more funding is needed to provide adequate care. The residents pay a portion to cover meals, rent and utilities in a ‘hotel fee’. Donations cover a small portion of the care provided, but it’s not enough to cover all of the necessary care, said Lawson.

“It would be our opinion that we do not receive enough funding from the provincial government to provide the level of staffing that we would like to see,” Bethany Care’s Lawson said.

According to Rayne Kuntz, the media spokesperson at Covenant Health, there appears to be no concern of low staffing levels.

“All our care facilities are staffed to required levels by the province,” Kuntz wrote in an email interview.

“Ideally, we’d all agree that we’d like to have more staff. But relative to the long term care sector in general in Canada, staffing levels are good,” said Steve Buick, spokesperson for the health minister.

While residents are responsible for paying for their continuing care services like meals, rent and utilities, Chief Executive Officer, Tammy Leach from the Alberta Continuing Care Association said in an interview with the Calgary Journal in 2014, “In all situations the government is responsible for providing funds for care and for stipulating the level of care an individual receives. Operators must meet the requirements and provide the level of care specified by Alberta Health Services.” 

To contact the editors responsible for this story; Jordan Kroschinsky at; Evan Manconi at

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