Seniors increasingly wary of long-term care, 'Pandemic Perspectives' survey shows

"The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has done little to restore the faith of Canadians in long-term care,” said Dr. Samir Sinha.

The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released on March 4 the findings of an online national survey gauging the perspectives of 2,005 Canadians on how the second wave of the pandemic has impacted the state of Canada's long-term care (LTC) systems. The majority of all Canadians (86 per cent) surveyed — and 97 per cent of Canadians aged 65 years and older — are concerned about the current state of LTC in Canada.

  • Canadians Believe Government Action Could Have Reduced COVID-19 Death Toll in Long-Term Care

"The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has done little to restore the faith of Canadians in long-term care. This survey shows that the Canadian public, and older Canadians in particular, have lost trust in their governments' ability to safeguard LTC residents," said Dr. Samir Sinha. "Canadians are telling us that they'll do anything necessary to avoid having to move into a LTC home, and that they want governments to make up for lost time and act urgently to improve the state of long-term care, including the development of national standards and better integration of long-term care into the wider healthcare system."

Furthermore, Canadians harbour no illusions that the challenges facing LTC homes are the result of COVID-19. In fact, most Canadians (81 per cent) believe the challenges facing Canada's LTC homes predate the pandemic and that COVID-19 only made them worse. In particular, the survey found that 92 per cent of Canadians aged 65 years and older believe that the challenges now facing LTC homes were evident before the pandemic.

"The CMA has long been an advocate for better care for seniors," said Dr. Ann Collins, president of the CMA. "Our healthcare systems were not originally designed to meet the needs of an aging population. The pandemic has further demonstrated this. We have a limited window to prevent future tragedies like the ones that have ripped through our long-term care facilities in the last year. The CMA will continue to work at the national level to improve collaboration and the overall quality of seniors' care in Canada, including pressing for the development of pan-Canadian standards related to long-term care."

Three-quarters (73 per cent) of Canadians believe that the high number of deaths in LTC homes related to COVID-19 could have been reduced if governments had acted sooner. Only 45 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe that federal, provincial, and territorial governments have learned from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and will work to ensure minimal loss of life moving forward. Unsurprisingly, 85 per cent of all Canadians surveyed - and 96 per cent of Canadians aged 65 years and older - report that they will do everything they can to avoid moving into an LTC home.

The pandemic has prompted Canadians to believe that a stronger government response and action is needed to improve the state of Canada's healthcare systems. The survey found that the majority of Canadians (86 per cent) believe that long-term care should be considered an integrated part of our health system and funded and administered accordingly. Two-thirds (63 per cent) of Canadians aged 65 years and older who were surveyed rank improving the standards of LTC homes as their most important priority to be addressed by Canada's leaders after reducing the spread of COVID-19 by enforcing restrictions (63 per cent) and preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine (72 per cent).

The full findings of the survey can be found in the report Pandemic Perspectives on Long-Term Care: Insights from Canadians in Light of COVID-19 

The survey was conducted by Ipsos online with 2,005 Canadians aged 18+ and was completed between November 27-December 1, 2020. The findings have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

— Canadian Medical Association

— AB

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