Island Health and Seniors Advocate both look to improve long-term care

Four-year $2 million long-term care research project and Seniors Advocate consultation project announced.

Island Health has announced a new four-year research project to find out how to improve the quality of life for people in long-term care facilities.

The $2-million project is called “Seniors – Adding Life to Years” (SALTY), and is being overseen by Dr. Leah MacDonald of Island Health and partners from the University of Victoria as well as researchers from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta.

The study, according to Island Health, will focus on evaluating “best practices” being used across the country in long-term care homes.

“We know there are innovative care initiatives making a difference in long-term care settings and residential care homes across the country,” says MacDonald, who also serves as medical director for Island Health’s End of Life program. “As a health care system and society, we need to provide an alternative to the highly-medicalized way we approach the end of life. I am excited to be a part of this study, to bring a palliative care clinician lens to the research team.”

Cindy Trytten, Island Health director of research and capacity building, says collaborations like this one are “critically important to make sure that the research and results are relevant, and meet the needs of the people we serve.”

SALTY is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The release on the project says the end goal of the project is to “develop innovative strategies to understand and assess impact on quality of care and quality of life, with the aim of spreading effective approaches within and across jurisdictions.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the Seniors Advocate BC has launched what they are calling the most extensive consultation process ever undertaken in the province in an attempt to address this same issue.

Isobel Mackenzie’s office, with the help of volunteer surveyors, will be interviewing over 27,000 residents in long-term care facilities province-wide, along with their families, in an attempt to learn directly from those most intimately familiar with life in care.

Every resident in a long-term care facility in the province will have the opportunity to participate.

The Seniors Advocate’s consultation is essentially just a long questionnaire, but was developed through a 14-month consultative process with key stakeholders, including health authorities, family members, union representatives, community groups and academic experts – along with the facilities themselves.

Once the information is gathered, Mackenzie will compile a report which will be both publicly available and presented to the provincial government.

Personal identifiable information about the participants will not be published.

Facility-specific reports will also be made available to the care facilities themselves so they can see how their residents feel about the different facets of life there and make improvements accordingly.

“This is the first time in this province that we have had volunteers sit face to face with some of our most vulnerable seniors on such a large scale and the feedback we’re receiving from both volunteers and seniors themselves is very positive,” Mackenzie says, and although more than 250 volunteers have signed up to help administer the survey, more are still needed.

Anyone interested in helping can call 1-877-952-3181 or visit the website.