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 Volunteers can apply online or call the Seniors Advocate office at 1-877-952-3181.

B.C. Seniors Advocate invites British Columbians to participate in the second landmark survey of people in residential care

For Immediate Release

The Office of the Seniors Advocate is launching the second province-wide survey of the experiences of residents living in all 294 publicly-subsidized long-term care homes in B.C. and is calling on all interested British Columbians to join the survey team.

“In 2016/17, we conducted the most extensive study of residents’ quality of life in Canada. Over 800 caring and committed British Columbians volunteered to visit every care home in B.C. and gave voice to over 10,000 residents,” said B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. “Five years later, we once again call upon those who want to be part of improving the quality of life of seniors in long-term care to volunteer and join the survey team. We know British Columbians care deeply about seniors, and through participating in this survey, you can help shape the future for people in residential care homes across the province.”

Members of the survey team will include British Columbians from a wide variety of backgrounds who engage with the seniors as equals in a conversation about what life is like in the place they live. The surveyors are supported by health care professionals from the Ministry of Health, health authorities and individual care homes. Volunteers will be screened for suitability and participate in training sessions to prepare them for conducting surveys with a minimum of 10 care home residents during the survey period.

Information about joining the survey team is available at or by calling the Office of the Seniors Advocate toll free at 1 877 952-3181 or 2-1-1.

The long-term care quality of life survey examines topics such as food, safety, comfort, respect and responsiveness of staff, personal relationships, medications and activities.  Residents will be interviewed in person and their family members will be invited to participate by phone, online or via a written survey. The survey will be conducted at care homes across the province between June 2022 and February 2023. A final report is planned for spring 2023.

The 2017 final report ‘Every Voice Counts: Provincial Residential Care Survey Results’ made recommendations for system improvements including:

  • increasing care hours and ensuring staffing levels are enforced and monitored by heath authorities;
  • increasing flexibility of how and when care and services are delivered;
  • examining opportunities to improve the mealtime experience;
  • advising health authorities to administer a similar quality of care survey to care home residents and family members in 2019/20 and publish the results;
  • increasing training focused on the emotional needs of residents;
  • foster greater engagement with family members particularly in regard to family councils and visitor handwashing;
  • better physician care and increasing the role of nurse practitioners to improve care;
  • increasing the range of activities, particularly in the evenings and weekends; and
  • undertaking the survey again in five years.

The Office of the Seniors Advocate is an independent office of the provincial government with a mandate of monitoring seniors’ services and reporting on systemic issues affecting seniors. The office also provides information and referral to seniors and their caregivers by calling toll free 1 877 952-3181, BC211, via email at, Canada Post and the OSA web site

Quick Facts:

In 2016/17, over 800 survey volunteers donated over 25,000 hours visiting every long-term care home in B.C.

  • Over 10,000 residents and 10,000 most frequent visitors, who are usually family members, were surveyed.

Volunteers will be screened and, if suitable, participate in a one-day training session; each will be asked for a commitment of a minimum of 40 hours over the survey period.

  • Each volunteer surveyor will be assigned to a care home and responsible for surveying a certain number of residents.

The 2022/23 survey will be offered in English, French, Punjabi, Chinese Simplified (Mandarin) and Chinese Traditional (Cantonese), German, Spanish, Korean, Persian, Filipino and Italian.

  • Additional languages will be added when/if needed based on information from care home operators.

To learn more, visit:

2017 ‘Every Voice Counts: Provincial Residential Care Survey Results’ report

Media contact:
OSA Communications
250 213-2024

Residential Care Survey

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie today released results of the Office of the Seniors Advocate’s landmark survey of people living in B.C.’s residential care facilities.

This is the most extensive survey of its kind ever conducted in Canada, targeting over 22,000 individuals in 292 residential care facilities.

“This project was a monumental undertaking and I am so very grateful to all of those who supported our efforts to ensure the voices of such an important part of our population in the province are heard,” said Mackenzie, adding the survey relied on the assistance of over 800 trained volunteers who donated 25,000 hours of their time to conduct in-person interviews with seniors. Residents’ most frequent visitors, usually a family member, were also mailed surveys.

Key positive responses from the survey include:

  • 50% of residents rated the overall quality of the care home as very good or excellent with 83% of residents believing the staff know what they are doing
  • 88% of family members report being involved in decisions about the care of their loved one
  • 80% of residents indicate they get the services they need
  • 65% of family members rated the facility 8 or higher when 10 was the highest possible score
  • 88% feel safe in the care home
  • 86% of residents feel staff treat them with respect
  • 88% of family members or most frequent visitors report that facility staff addresses their concerns always or most of the time

Key areas where residents and families said improvements are needed include:

  • 62% of residents say they do not get to bathe or shower as often as they want
  • One in four residents say they sometimes, rarely or never get help to the toilet when needed and 25% of residents report staff try to relieve physical discomfort sometimes, rarely or never
  • More than one-third of residents report they are not consistently getting the help they need at mealtimes
  • Almost 46% of residents report there is no one living in the facility that they consider a close friend and 45% report there is no one for them to do things with
  • Less than half (46%) of residents say staff regularly make time for friendly conversation
  • 49% of residents only sometimes, rarely or never have the same care aide on most weekdays
  • 4 out of 10 residents living in residential care do not want to be there
  • Only 57% of residents report that the care facility regularly feels like home

The Seniors Advocate has made a number of recommendations on the basis of the findings from this survey, including:

  • Increase flexibility around when and how care, services and activities are delivered
  • Foster greater engagement with family members
  • Examine opportunities to improve the meal time experience

“This report is not the “voice” but the “voices” of residential care as the diversity of opinions is apparent in the results. Together, these voices are telling us that our residential care system has some good aspects—even very good for some—but, taken as a whole, we need to do better and, in some cases, much better. You will read in the report of residents who are waiting too long to get the help they need, who are frustrated by the rigidity of fixed schedules and who want to have more to do and people they can talk to,” said Mackenzie.

Read News Release

Read Full Report (Provincial Results)

Read Full Report (Health Authority Results)

View PowerPoint Presentation

View video about our volunteers

Audio transcript of teleconference