Are extended care homes safe?

Dear Nurse Kris:

I know you help families who are dealing with putting a parent in a facility, so I thought I would run our situation by you. Our problem is, I just heard a couple of really negative comments about the facility we going to place our mom in. We thought it would be okay to put her in a large extended care facility near one of our family members, but now we are having some second thoughts because of these comments. I thought all facilities had to meet certain standards of care, so what I heard about this one really shocked me.

How do we know if these extended care homes are safe?


Tom from Vancouver


Dear Tom:

I'm not an expert but have done some research recently on the topic of safety of extended care homes.

Care homes are either Assisted Living (for clients who are more independent and direct their own care) or Extended Care (for clients who need 24 hour care and assistance). They are licensed by different licensing entities, and each have different criteria for admission.

A care home bed will either be a 'funded' bed, or a 'private pay' bed. A 'funded' bed simply means the patient's stay is primarily funded by the health authority. All clients who need placement in funded bed, need to have an assessment performed by a health authority nurse from the Community or Long Term Care department. A private bed, means the client or their family privately pay for these beds. A nursing assessment is usually not necessary.

Many regulations are in place to promote the health, safety, and dignity of residents. It is important to stay involved with your family member’s life after they have moved into a facility. Be sure your visiting family member asks questions and observe any changes in your mom. Other ways to be involved include participating in the resident and family council and taking part in your mom's routine care planning meetings.

Health authorities post summary inspection reports on their websites for routine and follow-up inspections of facilities licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act or licensed or designated under the Hospital Act. The reports include information relating to substantiated complaints and inspections. Only since 2012 have substantiated reports been available in our health authority in the Interior of BC.

To determine if the comments you heard have any basis, go to the health authority website where the facility is and look for the tab which discusses Senior Care or housing, or Residential care. Search the menu for "Inspection Reports" and "Substantiated Complaints". As well, you can search these websites inspection reports for Food Inspection reports. I advise you to read these as well.

I would also recommend you perform an internet search with key word "senior abuse in care home" or the like. This will turn up media reports. Remember, a media report is simply a news story until allegations are founded and substantiated.

From my experience working as a Registered Nurse and Residential Care Manager in a health authority facility in the Interior of BC, we always appreciate it when we have family involvement. Having family involved and visiting means resident advocacy is enhanced, which generally means improved understanding for the preferences and needs of the resident.

I also recommend you or your family members attend a family support group targeted to families with parents in care. This will give you a good opportunity to connect with other families with similar situations. Ask questions about the responsiveness of management at various facilities. Facilities with a high turnover of management or staff denotes a problem at higher levels of management. Inconsistent or constantly changing key leaders means changes that are implemented may not be followed through with and staff performance issues may not be fully addressed. This results in care practices that may not be supervised or addressed.

I hope I've given you a place to start. Good Luck Tom!

Nurse Kris

More Ask Nurse Kris articles

About the Author

Kris Stewart is the owner, CEO and Clinical Director of Advanced Home Care Solutions Inc, based in Kelowna. She is a well-known, well respected Registered Nurse with advanced nursing and business degrees; she is also an inveterate health care entrepreneur, establishing health care enterprises in Canada and the USA. She is a sought after public speaker on health care and seniors matters, as well as workplace dynamics, and has won several national awards for her work in health care. She is a distinguished Alumni of Thompson Rivers University. Her professional mandate is to ensure that private health care options remain accessible and affordable for all.

Kris can be reached at:  [email protected]

Advanced Home Care Solutions:  http://www.advancedhomecaresolutions.com/about-kris-stewart


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories