Oct. 8, 2020

Senior care: what needs to change?

'There are no easy answers; care of older adults is a complex landscape within a complex system,' says associate professor Dr. Lorraine Venturato
Lorraine Venturato senior care
Lorraine Venturato senior care

Nursing researchers examine the experiences of individuals and families facing chronic health conditions, their involvement with the health system and the effectiveness of nursing interventions for chronic disease management.

Associate professor and director of international and global health Dr. Lorraine Venturato (PhD) has extensive experience as a clinician, educator and researcher in care of older adults. As a contributor to our goal of improving outcomes for living well with chronic conditions, Venturato has an interest in long-term care workforce development and models of care. She currently leads an Alberta team in a national research program aimed at improving palliative services in long-term care across Canada.

Her expertise in this area has been highly valuable as the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated and long-term care settings and older adults have been particularly affected. Care providers have had to deal with multiple fast-paced policy changes, staff shortages, resident and family concerns, additional testing requirements, media requests, significant budget implications, and for some, a rising death toll. For residents and families, COVID-19 has brought increased risks to health and wellbeing, including heightened anxiety and social isolation for many.

Venturato led a webinar in June 2020 that explored why this sector has been hit so hard and offered considerations for the future of long-term care post-COVID-19.

“There are no easy answers: care of older adults is a complex landscape within a complex system. Aging care has been a journey over the last few decades with sharp improvements in recent years and COVID-19 has just been part of that journey. But the pandemic has really highlighted the variation of standards across Canada and even within Alberta.”

While the Health Council of Alberta’s 2017 survey indicated only 18 per cent of respondents felt there was enough staff in long-term care facilities, Venturato said COVID-19 has made staffing even more of an issue.

“The big focus of my research is staffing preparedness for the future. I am optimistic as the number of voices we are hearing on this subject has really increased. “In long-term care, what you really need is people — people who are skilled and who can spend time with residents. Relationships: that’s what it’s all about.”