Neglect in Long-Term Care Homes and Assisted Living Residences

Neglect can (and does) happen in long-term care homes and assisted living residences in British Columbia. This was highlighted in a 2020 report, which found there is a “likelihood of substantial neglect” in assisted living facilities in the province.

Those affected by substandard care should contact our lawyers to discuss their options. There may be grounds to pursue a legal claim. If multiple residents are affected, then a class action lawsuit may be more suitable.

Protection for seniors

The Community Care and Assisted Living Act provides various protections for seniors living in long-term care homes and assisted living residences. According to the law, each and every resident has the right to:

  • A care plan developed specifically for the individual
  • Health, safety and dignity
  • Participation and freedom of expression
  • Transparency and accountability

“Likelihood of substantial neglect”

Unfortunately, however, this standard is not always met. This was highlighted in a troubling report published in 2020. The report’s author, Dr. Karen-Marie Perry, found the assisted living sector in B.C. to be “under-regulated, under-researched and largely privatized”.

Examples of neglect included towels being used as adult diapers or for wound care. Seniors were seen wearing dirty clothes because of detergent costs. Also, some residents were forced to skip meals because they weren’t included in basic meal packages.

The cause of this neglect was attributed to low staffing levels and care needs not being met due to costs. The fact that many facilities are privatized adds an added layer of complexity. If a resident cannot afford their care needs, then they are forced to go without.

The impact of the pandemic

B.C. Premier John Horgan said the challenges facing seniors “are being graphically highlighted during this time of pandemic”. Long-term care facilities across the province were blighted by Covid-19 outbreaks and became the focus of the media’s attention.

Families reported a lack of care and transparency, even as their loved ones entered their final days. Staff often worked at more than one facility. Some employees said they felt duty-bound to work even if they were sick or had a day off, such were the lack of resources available.

For-profit care centres have come under particular attack. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCAP) is even calling on the provincial government to make senior care the exclusive responsibility of publicly-funded or not-for-profit care centres.

What can you do?

There is, then, evidence that suggests seniors are at risk of neglect in long-term care homes and assisted living residences. And while policy-makers debate a change in practices, residents and family members might wonder whether there is any action they themselves can take.

This is perfectly understandable. No one expects to be mis-treated by an elderly care provider. Those who suffer will, of course, be angry and upset by the experience – as will their family members.

Although it cannot undo what has happened, there may be scope to sue the long-term care home or assisted living residence in question. It is necessary to prove that neglect has taken place, and that this has caused some kind of harm.

Class action lawsuits

Often where one resident has suffered neglect, others have too. If so, it may be preferrable to bring a class action lawsuit against the care provider. This is when a claim is filed by more than one individual against a single defendant.

Residents of long-term care homes in B.C. have brought class actions in the past. In one case, Island Health took over the emergency management of three private for-profit long-term care homes following complaints of neglect. Improvements have since been made at each facility.

This goes to show that bringing legal action is sometimes the best way to bring about positive change. Ending systemic neglect – and ensuring others don’t suffer a similar fate – will be a motivation for many who have experienced elderly care negligence.

Speak to our Vancouver personal injury lawyers

If you have suffered neglect at a long-term care home or assisted living residence, or your loved one has, please contact us at John Mickelson Law Corporation. We can help you get the justice you and your family deserve.

To get expert legal advice, either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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