"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Protection of Persons in Care Act In Action

There's a report out in the news about abuse in Nova Scotia's nursing homes.

Apparently, 73 investigations were carried out by the Health Department Oct. 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2008, following complaints filed under the Protection of Persons in Care Act.

You might recall that we previously discussed that legislation, which has been in force in the province for just over a year now.
Health Department investigators determined there were 41 incidents of abuse at a wide variety of small and large nursing homes, as well as at hospital wards across the province.

Of those, the department says 30 cases involved staff abusing residents, four were cases of residents abusing other residents, and seven involved family members or visitors abusing a resident.
The Department of Health defines physical abuse as "the use of physical force resulting in pain, discomfort or injury including: slapping, hitting, beating, rough handling, tying up or binding." In these cases, the physical abuse ranged from serious incidents, such as staff members slapping a resident or handling them so roughly that bruising resulted, to less severe cases of staff forcing an unwilling resident to eat a meal or bathe.

The biggest problem here appears to be a lack of proper staff training. As in staff in facilities who have had a dementia care course have an understanding of why some residents might be rebelling at their suggestions.
Since 2006, she said the province has required staff to have a continuing care certification, and in recent years a course on dealing with "challenging behaviours" has been made available to nursing homes and hospitals across the province. However, recruitment of staff remains a challenge, she added, noting there are times when nursing homes are short-staffed because of a lack of qualified staff, which creates more stress for on-duty staff.
However, the Province appears to consider the new legislation as a "success" in that cases are being reported, and remedies such as staff retraining are being implemented. And I would agree. At least up to a point.

The whole idea of abuse in nursing homes, be it physical, sexual, financial or emotional, sickens me. Even more so, given the fact that we were seriously looking at having my mother placed in a nursing home last year.

But there are two positives to be remembered here:

  • Firstly, there is legislation in place affording protection to residents, not just of nursing facilities in Nova Scotia, but any patients and residents 16 years of age and older who are receiving care in a Nova Scotia health facility (which includes hospitals, nursing homes, homes for special care or caring for persons with disabilities, group homes and residential centres). In other words, not just the elderly but also any disabled person in a home for special care, group home or residential centre.


  • And anyone (which includes you and you and you) can report suspected abuse by calling 1-800-225-7225.30.
The first step is having legislation in place. Check.

The second step is using it. And demanding accountability.

That's where you and I come in.


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