With our aging population, long term care has become part of many of our lives or our families’ lives. A quick check around our office and we find that many of our parents and/or grandparents access some level of care to function on a daily basis. There seems to be more advertising focused on long term care, and more facilities popping up all over our communities.
Statistics Canada reports that over 15% of our population at the last census was over 65; it was 7.6% in 1960. For the first time there are more people aged 65 and older than there are children aged 0-14 years. By 2036, seniors are expected to make up 25% of the population. People aged 85 years and over make up the fastest growing age group in Canada 1
Nine in ten (90%) Canadians agree that Canada requires a national seniors’ strategy to address needs along the full continuum of care 1. So I thought it would be interesting to dig into how care is administered and what HR’s role is in the industry.
Generally care can be described along a continuum:
The continuing care system consists of five key components:
Home care: Home care services encompass an array of health services delivered to individuals in their homes. These services include assessment and case management, professional health services, personal care, homemaking, and other services.
Community support services: Community support services are health services that are delivered in a variety of settings other than the home, the long-term care facility or the hospital. These include respite programs, adult day programs and personal care services. As with home care, community support services have been developed to better meet client health needs and to delay or avoid facility admission, resulting in better use of resources along the continuum of care.
Supportive/assisted living arrangements: Assisted living is collective housing to which support services such as meals and basic housekeeping, personal care services and health services are added. It is suitable for the vast majority of healthy seniors and for many disabled individuals. Public supportive housing and public supportive/assisted living should not be confused with private retirement homes and residences which are private pay accommodations which provide a private room and hotel services such as group meals, laundry and housekeeping, and are primarily for seniors who are functionally independent. Assisted living arrangements fits best as a middle option along the continuum between home care and facility-based long term care.
Facility-based long term care: Facility-based long term care is both a home for residents and a workplace for health providers. Care is provided for people with complex health needs who are unable to remain at home or in a supportive living environment over an extended period of time. It has three main components: accommodation, hospitality services and health services.
Hospice Care / Palliative Care: Hospice and Palliative care are given to terminal patients to relieve pain. Hospice provides around the clock care and is generally given at a hospital while palliative care can be administered elsewhere.
The common thread in all of these types of care is people. All of the services and care is administered by people with a variety of skills and certifications. For example, regulations in Canada stipulate that 3.5 hours of care per patient per day needs to be provided in Long Term Care facilities 1. That means for a 100 bed facility you need at least 44 people working 8 hours a day to support them. For many facilities, it is a challenge to fully staff their facility with the right credentialed employees. Many LTC facilities are unable to keep up with regulations and average about 2.86 hours of care per person per day 2. This can have a spillover effect on patients and make them feel rushed and agitated. In extreme cases, this can create an unsafe environment for staff and increase turnover.
Long-term care and other support facilities have greatly increased in numbers because of North America’s aging population, which means a steady demand for skilled, qualified, and certified support staff. Personal Care Workers are estimated to be one of the highest in demand with secure careers for the next forty years 3. This growing industry creates some challenges for HR. HR has to run continuous recruitment processes with appropriate checks on credentials. They have to make sure the right person is in the right position. And once the appropriate hire is in place, training needs to be provided and managers need to have access to their employees’ time records and credentials with reminders in place when rules are violated or exceptions occur.
Health and safety in the workplace is crucial in the LTC world. The jobs can be physically and emotionally demanding and HR has to be there to provide support and access to the appropriate resources should an incident occur. As employees move around constantly, delivery of these tools and support systems has to be done electronically so that employees can access it anytime and anywhere. Healthcare and LTC is dependent on trustworthy, competent people and the role of HR in staffing these facilities cannot be underestimated. And although certain record keeping components of caregivers’ jobs can be automated, the job itself cannot be transferred to a machine. It requires real and kind interactions between people.
About the Author:
Marnie Larson is the CEO of StarGarden Corporation and oversees its operations in Canada, US and New Zealand. She has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and specializes in HCM, Business process automation and Workflow technology.