Staffing and Workloads in Alberta’s Long-term Care Facilities
In Alberta, 64 per cent of COVID-19 fatalities – more than 1,200 – were seniors in long-term care. Yet, even amidst this tragedy, the lesson has not been adequately learned: according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information released in March 2021, COVID-19 cases among residents of LTC and retirement homes increased by nearly two-thirds during the second pandemic wave compared with the first wave.
The reason for that being that many seniors continuing care centers are chronically understaffed and unable to meet the basic care needs of seniors.
According to a survey of LTC staff in Alberta, nearly half of LTC workers – 43 per cent – did not have adequate time to complete required tasks consistently every day. Consequently, staff are left with few options: leave important aspects of their job – including care tasks – undone, work through their breaks, or stay late to finish.
About half of respondents felt pressures on staffing were creating conditions of actual harm to residents:
– whose calls went unanswered for longer than was ideal;
– who were not helped to the toilet in time;
– who were not turned sufficiently;
– who received delayed assistance with meals.
Moreover, survey participants responded about their experience of various injuries and illnesses sustained while working in long-term care. They reported encountering a wide range of verbal, physical and sexual aggression from residents, residents’ family members, and also other staff. More than half (53 per cent) experienced mental distress or post-traumatic stress symptoms at work at least occasionally.