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Report: more staff, better training needed to reduce senior violence

The horror stories that usually come out about nursing homes involve staff on resident violence, but a new report suggests residents acting violently toward staff -- and each other -- is much more prevalent.

According to the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), there were seven homicides in Ontario in 2018 committed by a resident against another resident in long-term care homes. The coalition has created a report called Situation Critical, which is an assessment of the current state of long-term care in Ontario and the needs of seniors.

Shirley Roebuck sits on the board for the OHC. She said none of the patient on patient homicides last year were in Chatham-Kent, Windsor, or London, but violence is an escalating issue. Roebuck added while there is a problem of staff acting in a violent or aggressive way, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

"What is more prevalent is long-term care residents are not properly taken care of and exhibit violent or aggressive behaviour towards staff members or towards each other," Roebuck said. "The folks who exhibit this violent or aggressive behaviour are not responsible. They aren't being violent on a planned level. They are suffering from some type of dementia."

Roebuck said the understaffing of long-term care facilities and the lack of trained staff to handle aggressive residents is to blame for the situation. She added facilities are lacking the tools to not only keep residents safe, but staff as well.

"If staff aren't given the tools to properly care for the clients then violence will be the outcome," Roebuck said. "There isn't enough physical equipment for patients who exhibit aggressive tendencies. They're talking about clear plastic shields that allow clients not to be surprised. You approach the client only from the front and it allows the client not to be surprised by someone they don't know approaching them. Things like that. I am not talking about restraints."

Roebuck said the OHC will be holding press conferences around the province regarding Situation Critical starting January 21 in Chatham. The coalition will then make stops in Windsor and London on January 22. Copies of the report will be provided along with local first-hand accounts of conditions in local long-term care facilities.

"It's important that the way we treat our seniors actually meets their needs and I hope that's what this report, in the end, will say," Roebuck said.

After the tour is done, Roebuck said idea gathering will be the next step. She added there will be a round table in February with the focus on not what's wrong with the system but how to change it to serve seniors better.

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