Advocacy, one of the core competencies in the profession of social work. It is one skill that I was taught both in graduate school and as a professional over the past 15 years, it is a skill I take to heart.
On February 9, 2013 a documentary W5, Crisis in Care, reported by Sandi Rinaldo and the CTV team of investigators, was released. This investigation uncovered horrific statistics and stories of abuse taking place in Long Term Care facilities in Canada. The focus was on residents with dementia assaulting and killing other residents.
After viewing it, the natural human response is to wonder how something this horrendous could happen. Further questions of who is at fault and what solutions will facilitate the needed changes, come to mind as well. Finger pointing and blaming will not provide solutions or changes. Staff that work in residences and Long Term Care (LTC) facilities, for the most part, are very good at their job and demonstrate the skills of empathy, compassion, and hard work.
A team of three dedicated professionals who all belong to the professional LinkedIn group, Gerontology Professionals of Canada, decided to team up to formulate a response to the W5 documentary, Crisis in Care. Eleanor Silverberg, BA, Psych, MSW, RSW drew up the initial draft and is the main author, asked Angela Gentile, BSW, RSW and Victoria Brewster, MSW for their contributions. Seeking Action for Safety in Long Term Care Facilities was completed on February 20, 2013, and was forwarded to the following individuals/organizations as of February 23, 2013:
•W5, Sandi Rinaldo, the investigative team and the producers
•Federal Health Minister, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
•Alzheimer Society of Canada, CEO, Mimi Lowi-Young
•Alzheimer Society of Ontario, CEO, Gale Carey
•Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, CEO, Sylvia Rothney
•Federation of Quebec’s Alzheimer Society, CEO, Sandro di Cori
•Ontario Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Deb Matthews
•Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Réjean Hébert
•Manitoba Minister of Health, Hon. Theresa Oswald
•Canadian Alliance for Long Term Care
•Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs Minister of Manitoba, Hon. Jim Rondeau
•Misitere de la santé des Services sociaux- Services Quebec
The site, Action for Safety, created by social worker, Angela Gentile will continue to be a place where updates will be provided, as well as a place where other professionals, families and concerned individuals can express their views, working together on behalf of the vulnerable residents in Long Term Care facilities.
It is worthwhile to read the full response which describes the issues, provides some examples of assaults and deaths that have occurred in Canada while making suggestions for solutions. It is not possible that these horrible tragedies have only occurred here in Canada. It is not possible that budget cuts, reduced staff, lack of education, and a lack of awareness only effect Canada when it comes to LTC facilities and the disease of Dementia.
The link to Action for Safety has been shared with friends, family, colleagues, on social media through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook with an end goal of obtaining solutions to a very serious issue. This will continue along with contacting media to further bring the issue to light and raise awareness.
It is necessary for professionals to unite over a cause while advocating for needed change and I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of this project. A special thank you to Eleanor Silverberg and Angela Gentile!
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW