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Long-Term Care and Retirement Residences: Missed Expectations left alone are Missed Opportunities: Thoughts on Managing Complaints

Posted May 28th, 2015 in News, Long-Term Care, Retirement, Safety, Tips

Long-Term Care and Retirement Residences: Missed Expectations left alone are Missed Opportunities: Thoughts on Managing Complaints

Sometimes when moving into a new residence, whether it be a Retirement, or a Long-Term Care home, there may be bumps in the road. 

After admission, with hopes and optimism at an all time high, suddenly the wheels fall off.  Somehow, expectations, and the realization of these expectations, fall short.

Reflect back to another move; possibly a relocation to a new neighbourhood, entering dorm life at an educational institution, etc.…were there bumps as well?  

How did you handle these concerns?

I am certainly not trying to minimize early problems encountered, but at times exhausted elders and families become so frantic when an issue arises after admission, they are prepared to "throw the baby out with the bath water".

Think again.

Let's face it, change is difficult, especially when decisions may have been made at a stressful time. Countering a concern with a constructive action plan, is a great starting point in seeking resolution.

 Food For Thought regarding finding workable solutions:

What is the immediacy of the problem?  If there is a health issue or concern, speak directly to the Medical Supervisory Staff:  Charge Nurse, Assistant Director of Care or Director of Care.  Acute problems need acute responses.


Homes should have posted, or provide in writing, the measures  for lodging a complaint. This is valuable information as to the quickest steps to seek resolution.

  • Identify the problem(s) or concerns you are facing.  I prefer to organize my thoughts in writing, because usually the first draft is filled with more emotion, than fact.  Take a breath and reflect upon the problem.  What possible solutions can you foresee, that would bring the best outcome for the Resident? 
  • Try to follow the chain of command to visit concerns.  Speak with the most immediate supervisor in the wing or unit where the suite/room is located.  Sometimes "small" concerns are best handled at the basic level.
  • If there is no progress in resolving the concern: request a meeting with the Director of Care (or designate) to establish what corrective measures are to be implemented. Most often there is a designate, that will stream issues to the appropriate department, whether it be nursing/medical, dietary, environmental, financial, or recreation.  Holistically, the Director of Care is most often the lead for all issues.  
  • If progress is not satisfactory, request a meeting with the General Manager or Administrator.
  • If communication barriers impede resolution: consider contacting operating (Owners) or governing authorities.

In Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care (MOHLTC) has governance over Long-Term Care Homes.  The Long-Term Care ACTION Line is open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and can be reached toll-free at: 1-866-434-0144.             

For Legislative Information about Ontario LTC homes, check out the Long-Term Care Homes Act 2007 http://health.gov.on.ca/en/common/legislation/ltcha/default.aspx.  

In Ontario, the Retirement Homes Act is worth a read.  http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/10r11

Are there other types of advocacy that have not been explored?  Are there legal implications arising? 

In Ontario, ACE (Advocacy Centre for the Elderly) may be able to assist with some of these questions. http://www.advocacycentreelderly.org/

If a move is desired...

In the Long-Term Care sector in Ontario, the local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), must be contacted to reopen a case file.  The Resident would need to be placed on wait lists to make a lateral move to another LTC home.  There would be a wait time.

In a Retirement Home, review the contract so as to understand your rights and obligations. Contacts in Ontario such as ORCA (Ontario Retirement Communities Association) may be helpful resources. http://www.orcaretirement.com

 Should an individual decide to self discharge from a care facility, consider the implications.  Is there a safe place that has been chosen as an interim residence?

Who will provide care, services and supervision as required?

If reliant on medical services, how will you gain access to medical care, medications and other health services?

In my experience, I have never found a “perfect” home.  Realistically, being human there will always be differences in opinion, as well as strengths and weaknesses within a care team. But, the expectation to receive respectful, dignified, appropriate care based on best practice is a given. 

Final Thoughts

  • If there are any concerns about a residence, address them early, and keep the lines of communication open.
  • If solutions are not forth coming or there is the thought that your problem melted into the linoleum, raise the concern again. 
  • If a verbal exchange did not effect resolution, place your concerns in writing, continue with your complaint resolution pathway, and keep a hard copy for future reference.

 Tip of the Day...

In Ontario, when entering a Long-Term care home there are opportunities to leave higher ranking home choices on wait lists, should a bed not be available in one of these locations first.  Before removing your name from other wait lists, it would be prudent to test the waters to see if this home meets your expectations.

 A wise consumer assesses options long before the need arises, to determine what choices are available for supported care in the community, assisted living, and long-term care.  Making an important decision when overwhelmed by emotion adds to the burden of the task. If you are an Elder, or Advocate for an Elder, speak with your health care professional about concerns regarding safety, health, and future planning to meet physical, emotional and social needs.

Download the free Elderpilot: Long Term care or Elderpilot: Retirement mobile tour apps (iPhones and Androids) for more information. The resource section is full of tips and strategies including things to think about re care needs of individuals living with dementia.. The apps will guide you on your tours, providing prompts, recording your observations and creating a report to share with others. Looking for more help? Visit us at www.elderpilot.com. and read my blogs.

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