OSA Long-Term Care Survey in the News

Volunteers sought to interview seniors in long-term care

Have you ever wondered what it’s like for seniors to live in long-term care? Now is your chance to find out.

A survey being held by the Office of the Seniors Advocate is seeking volunteers to visit residents, see and learn what it’s like in long-term care, while conducting a structured interview with seniors.

The project will interview all 29,000-plus residents in the provincially funded long-term care system about quality of life, with the goal to make improvements for them, both locally and provincially.

People are needed to visit residents, talk to them, ask their opinion on certain topics, listen to their stories and ultimately brighten their day in long-term care.

A similar survey was done five years ago, and the results of the new survey will give a comparison of results over time, ensure what people learned from the pandemic, and allow a refresh of the road map for improvement of overall quality of care and services given to residents in long-term care.

Anyone can apply as a volunteer by going online or calling by phone to 1-877-952-3181.

Original article by Brayden Ursel, January 6, 2023 appears here: Castanet.net Volunteers sought to interview seniors in long term care

If you’re interested in volunteering in the Penticton, Prince George, Victoria (or anywhere else in the province), please apply here.

Volunteer Reflections: Surveying with Heart

Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population. Currently 15% of our population is aged 65 and older, and that number is expected to increase to 25% by 2056.

As a member of that demographic and being involved with organizations that are advocating for a comprehensive National Seniors’ Strategy, I was highly interested in the Nelson Star article about the province-wide survey being conducted by the Office of the Seniors’ Advocate. Volunteers were needed to survey every resident in long term care about their quality of life. This opportunity appealed to me because it was connected to my advocacy work, it was time limited, and it was a way to support our community. I committed to the training and forty hours of surveying.

The training prepared me for the technical work. What I was unprepared for was the range of emotions the work elicited. The first contact with the resident always started like a cold call. Would they be interested in doing the survey? Sometimes the answer was a “hard no” and other times the answer was “not now”. That meant I would need to return. But if the answer was “yes” the session moved to the survey design of question and response. The start was usually quite formal with some curious hesitancy on the part of the resident. However, a few moments of silent patience would often provide opportunity for them to gain confidence and begin to relax. It was so rewarding to watch the mood change from caution to comfortable.

By the survey end a magical transformation had happened. Now it was my turn to listen. With a twinkle in their eye, the residents would share stories of their growing up, moving around, or hard times. There would be stories of pride in their accomplishments, and in their children and grandchildren. But then with the occasional quiet honesty would come the quiet disclosure of being kinless and an expression of their loneliness. We shared chuckles, expressions of wonder and sometimes a tear. I felt so privileged to be in their home, the place where their memories now reside. We had become friends.

As a first-time volunteer in such a venture, I would encourage other beginning volunteers to carefully follow the training guidelines. The integrity of the survey must not be compromised. But remember the human element. It is important to take some additional time with the resident. Find a balance for the survey and listening time. Always keep in mind that while you are gathering information you are a guest in the resident’s home, a place of rich memories that are waiting to be shared. The opportunity to gather information that will be used to improve the lives of the residents, combined with “heart hearing,” is invaluable. This gathering and listening will enrich your life, knowing that you have contributed to the lives of others in multiple ways.

If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who would like to be a part of this meaningful survey project,  apply here.

Article written by By OSA Surveyor, Grace Wilson

Advocate issues warning as percentage of seniors living in B.C. doubles over past five years

B.C. Office of the Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says the province is yet to feel the true impact of the grey wave.

The B.C. Office of the Seniors Advocate has released the 2022 Monitoring Seniors Report revealing the percentage of seniors living in the province has jumped 10 per cent over the past five years.

According to the report from Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, the number of seniors (people aged 65 and over) in B.C. has grown 17 per cent in the past five years — meaning 20 per cent of B.C.’s population is over 65 (a 10 per cent increase on 2017).

According to the report from Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, the number of seniors (people aged 65 and over) in B.C. has grown 17 per cent in the past five years — meaning 20 per cent of B.C.’s population is over 65 (a 10 per cent increase on 2017).

“It is important to understand most of the seniors population in B.C. is relatively healthy,” Mackenzie said.

“This tells us we have not yet begun to feel the real pressures that will come to many programs and services as the baby boomers begin living into their 80s. We need to act now to ensure supports are there for them in the future.”

Mackenzie’s annual report card found waiting times for four of the top five surgeries most accessed by seniors had fallen over the past five years and access to preferred long-term housing was improving.

The report found the life expectancy of someone who is 65 in 2022 is 87 (88 if you are female and 85 if you are male).

In good news for the health care system, emergency department visits per 1,000 seniors has fallen 10 per cent in the past five years, and hospitalization rates have fallen six per cent.

The report showed 96 per cent of seniors live independently in private dwellings, with the remainder living in assisted living or long-term care facilities. Eighty per cent of seniors own their home, while the waiting list for seniors subsidized housing with B.C. Housing has grown 50 per cent.

Article by David Carrigg originally appeared here on December 16th, 2022.

The full report, Monitoring Seniors Services can be accessed here 

Bilingual OSA Surveyor Claire C. reflects on how language is powerful, connecting us to each other.

Language barriers can impact everything in our daily lives, contributing to feelings of isolation and not being heard. This can be especially true for seniors living in long-term care whose first language is not English. Throughout our province there are communities with large numbers of seniors who prefer to speak languages other than English. This is also reflected in the communities of residents living in long term care. In some care homes, a resident may find herself the only one speaking her preferred language and simply cannot communicate with anyone around her. There are also care homes who cater to a cultural community.  A guiding principle of the survey is inclusion and this means engaging, inviting and listening to the residents’ voices, one or many, who are sharing their experiences in their preferred language.

OSA Surveyor, Claire C., reflected on her experiences as an OSA Surveyor approaching residents in English and Cantonese. Engaging with residents in Cantonese she is able to instantly connect with Cantonese speaking residents in a way that help those seniors feel more comfortable and understood. She explains that in her surveys, she has noticed that sometimes, it is human nature to revert to our mother tongue when we speak about our personal experiences and struggles and joys.

“My mother tongue is Cantonese. It is after I have taken part in surveying seniors who only speak Cantonese and no English that I started to realize the power of one’s own language and culture to connect people deeply… despite how brief those encounters are.
When I go into the room of a Cantonese-speaking resident, I would immediately notice the box of traditional egg rolls (蛋卷), grandkids’ drawings with words written in Chinese or things like that. Very often, the resident and I would start our conversation from a familiar place. There are older residents who can’t speak much English and feel isolated. Simply being able to talk to someone who is willing to listen energizes them. And there are residents who have been living and working in Canada for decades and would still prefer to share their views, struggles and wisdom in a language they feel connected to. I suppose it is the sense of shared understanding and ease of expressing oneself that provide reassurance and comfort.
It matters a lot for the residents to be truly heard. I remember there are times when I have close an interview and step away, the resident would ask my name again, wonder when I will come back, or we would exchange some heart-felt wishes in our own language. It is this mutual connection that touches us both and makes the day a little brighter.”

With the OSA resident surveys well underway, we are seeking bilingual surveyors who are fluent in English and an alternate language such as Punjabi, Korean, Italian, Cantonese, Mandarin or German.

If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who would like to be a part of this meaningful important survey project,  please apply here.

Connecting in the Kootenays!

A memorable trip for Regional Engagement Lead, Emily Jurek

The recent Nelson Seniors Fair, held on October 28, provided me with the opportunity to connect with volunteers, seniors, and community advocates from a variety of backgrounds. While travelling through the interior, I took advantage of several opportunities to discuss the OSA’s survey project with community members.

In Kelowna, I met with a local student leader at UBCO. We explored ways that she and her student organization can support the project. I loved seeing her enthusiasm and interest. Passing through Castlegar, I met with a legacy volunteer from 2016. Over a warm drink, she shared how her experience then directly led her to a new career in seniors care, one which she finds both rewarding and engaging.

The fair itself was an amazing opportunity to share experiences with a variety of wonderful people, as well as to get a taste of the unique culture and flavour of Nelson. I met many dedicated and wonderful people – those who lead care giver support groups, advocate for improvements in local care homes because of a loved one’s experience, support local stroke survivors, and coordinate engaging learning opportunities for seniors. I also got to meet many of the wonderful retirees in this area, who have the accumulated skills of a lifetime combined with a heartfelt readiness to give to their communities.

Sharing with potential volunteers how satisfying my engagements with residents were brought back little interesting stories, friendly faces, and tears from seniors I have interviewed. I found myself both very grateful for the wonderful volunteers I met and vaguely jealous that they are the ones who will conduct the interviews and hear all the fascinating stories of residents.

We are continuing to recruit volunteers across the province to participate as Volunteer Surveyors in this project. If you are interested in volunteering as part of this survey, please apply here.

Volunteer Reflections: The meaning of patient-centred care

OSA Surveyor, Lisa D. reflects on her volunteer time inviting residents living at a long-term care home in Vancouver to share their experiences of their care.

Just thinking about the day. Central City Lodge is a busy care home right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver. Residents come and go constantly, as do staff and visitors.

Today was no exception. I was very happy to see B.C. Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie entering the building to join me on an afternoon shift at the ‘Lodge’. It was my third shift as a Volunteer Surveyor on the initiative, all spent at this particular home. Of course this was not Isobel’s ‘first rodeo’, so with minimal instruction, off she went to continue where I left off the day before.

After a couple of hours we both returned to the central office to finalize the paperwork and check in with each other. I was happy to hear that Isobel had completed a survey I had started with a very talkative resident the day before. It can work well doing the survey in stages so the resident doesn’t get overtired and bored with the process. Residents are also often happy to anticipate another visit with us and the opportunity for a bit of a chat.

And for me, learning about each resident is part of what I love about this volunteer role. Residents come from every walk of life, I’ve interviewed a musician, a barber, a logger – learned about their favourite foods, where they grew up, and captured a lot of valuable feedback on their current living situation. I love that we’re asking, even though their circumstances can sometimes make their replies difficult to understand. This is the meaning of true patient-centred care and I was happy to be able to share my enthusiasm for the initiative with Isobel in person. The photo you see is one I snapped of her at the end of her shift!

Volunteer Reflections from the Fraser Region

Volunteers are what fuels the BC Office of the Seniors Advocate’s Long-Term Care Survey. We asked some of volunteers in the Fraser Valley why they answered the call for Volunteer Surveyors:

We should all get involved and work together to help improve the quality and condition of our long-term care facilities. Our family members and friends may one day require the support provided in these facilities. The most important thing I took away from the training was a new found awareness of the living conditions in a long-term care facility. I used to think of the facility as a hospital, but now I understand that it is also a home for the residents.” (Amarpreet P.)

“If people are dealing with problems of their own, as I am, it feels very good to help others, in turn it helps you take your mind off your own problems. I am impressed with the behind the scenes work that has been put into the survey and I am looking forward to meeting and volunteering with like minded people. I am very proud to tell them that I am volunteering with the Office of Seniors Advocate.” (Norma C.)

Come join us in making a difference in the lives of our seniors, volunteer today!

A Heartfelt Interview: Listening in Mandarin

Amazing volunteers from varied backgrounds are coming forward to listen to the voices of older adults living in long-term care.  Volunteer Surveyors who are fluent both English and in another language, invite residents to participate in this survey in their preferred language.  Read about one Volunteer Surveyor who connected with residents while conducting interviews in Mandarin.

Hi Judy,

I just wanted to let you know that the Care Home Champion at the site was extremely supportive and helpful throughout my orientation and shift. She helped me confirm where some of the alternate language residents were, and helped me find a quiet place to chat with the residents when group activities began running in the common room. Another volunteer was also there today, and we worked together to come up with a plan to connect with many residents during our shift.

I want to share something heartwarming today! I was having a wonderful conversation with a delightful Mandarin-speaking resident, and at the end of our interview, she asked me to come back and join her for tea next week! While I politely declined, it was endearing and absolutely made my day. I realized, during our interview, that we share the same hometown in China. Because she speaks only Mandarin, she has been unable to communicate with everyone around her at the care home, and felt isolated for a long time. However, when we chatted, she was extremely witty and open to sharing her experiences. It was certainly a special visit and meaningful interview! 

You too can find a sense of community and connection during your volunteer commitment, whether it is through interviewing in another language, with other volunteers or residents. We are continuing to recruit volunteers across the province to participate as Volunteer Surveyors in this project. If you are interested in volunteering as part of this survey, please apply here.

The Volunteer Experience: Notes from the First Shift

Surveys at long-term care homes across B.C. have begun and will continue through to spring 2023.

Currently, the BC Office of the Seniors Advocate’s Residential Care Survey has over 25 Volunteer Surveyors conducting interviews with residents across the province. We have some amazing volunteers coming forward to take part in this survey and we are blown away with the response and skills the volunteers have.

We have also had great response from our first residents with volunteers completing interviews and having great experiences on their first shifts.  Here is an example of the feedback from one of our Volunteer Surveyor following his first shift conducting interviews

“Hi Judy,

The staff on the floor have been absolutely delightful. Had a short orientation and then got started.

I attempted 2 interviews. The first, after a fair bit of discussion, said I should come back another day. I offered to come back tomorrow at the same time. The second resident I connected with was a great interview. The interview process took a full hour. We got all the way through and had a nice little chat at the end.”

We are continuing to recruit volunteers across the province to participate as Volunteer Surveyors in this project. If you are interested in volunteering as part of this survey, please apply here.

Training Kicks Off for Volunteer Surveyors

Thank you to the 100+ individuals across the province who have signed up to be volunteer surveyors with the Office of the Seniors Advocate’s Long-Term Care Survey. The survey of over 29,000 individuals living in nearly 300 long-term care homes in B.C. is being launched in Early Adopter care homes in August and will be rolled out to scheduled care homes starting early September.

This week, the survey team will begin offering regular training sessions that equip volunteers with skills to properly conduct a structured interview, as well as tools and techniques necessary to effectively engage with our residents.

The virtual Zoom training sessions focus on teaching and practicing what is called “the structured interview”. A structured interview is a standardized way of conducting an interview so data can be collected in a reliable and valid way.

Through numerous mock interview exercises, volunteers will practice what it will be like to approach residents, invite them to participate, and conduct a structured interview. By working through a variety of scenarios, volunteers will develop an understanding of the circumstances and situations that may arise throughout their time in our long-term care homes.

Recruitment is ongoing, so please share the call for this volunteer opportunity with people in your communities. A 40-hour commitment is required and training will be provided.

To volunteer go to www.surveybcseniors.org/volunteer. Volunteers can apply online or call the Seniors Advocate office at 1-877-952-3181.