Seniors advocacy groups continue to react to the startling revelations of alleged murders at nursing homes in Woodstock and London, saying they highlight much needed changes in the system.
Vice President of Advocacy and COO for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons Wanda Morris says funding for long term care is an ongoing issue in Ontario. She says seniors can sometimes be considered “less than” in our society, resulting in less funding for their care, and leaving them vulnerable to abuse.
“What we have here is a cultural situation,” said Morris.
“I wonder if this had happened with sick children, would it have taken us this long to notice? I’ve even heard some disparaging remarks, I think this crime is no less odious because it happened to people at the end of life.”
Morris shared an analogy to describe what she believes is the state of our current system.
“Imagine that there was restaurants, and everyone was rating restaurants to see how they compared, but there was not enough restaurants to go around, so even the ones that got the poor ratings, people still had to go to because it was that or nothing. I think that’s the situation, I mean I think the government is providing some helpful tools, but there is such a shortage of long-term care beds.”
Morris says if there’s one silver lining in all this, it’s that proper attention is now being given to issues in the Long Term Care system.
The Canadian Centre for Elder Law is also hoping for solutions to prevent abuse and similar cases from happening in the future.
“We know that older adults who are receiving care in those contexts are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of issues around their physical health, disability, or cognitive issues like dementia,” said CCEL National Director Krista James.
“They’re just not able to protect themselves, so they really are vulnerable to being hurt if someone in their care circle is not providing appropriate care, or is actually harming them.”
James says the alleged killings in Woodstock and London are extreme examples, but elder abuse can take many forms in a care environment.
“We also see circumstances of neglect, sometimes related to under-staffing, and we also see situations where older adults are receiving substandard care or being hurt by someone that is impatient in providing care.”
James says there are proactive steps that can be taken to prevent something like this from happening again, such as increased training for professionals working in the field of long term care.
49-year-old Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer of Woodstock remains in police custody, facing eight counts of first-degree murder in deaths police say took place between 2007 and 2014.
Provincial police say the victims at seven nursing homes in Woodstock and one in London were given a drug, but would not say what the drug was.
Wettlaufer worked at the Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock from 2007 to 2014, at Meadow Park Nursing Home in London in 2014, and most recently at Lifeguard Homecare in Brantford. She was first registered as a nurse in 1995, but resigned last month and is no longer an RN.