Chilliwack volunteers sought for ambitious project to interview every senior in care in B.C.

Older people living in long-term care homes are often overlooked, forgotten behind the walls. An ambitious project taken on by the province’s Office of the Seniors Advocate aims to change that by interviewing all 27,000 residents in 303 care homes across the province. The goal is to find out if care home residents are living meaningful lives, with questions about food served, activities offered, privacy, dignity and the opportunity to make friends. B.C.’s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, plans to use the information to support her work and make recommendations on how to improve seniors care in B.C.

The individual residents will also be asked for the name of their most frequent visitor, who will receive a mail-in version of the survey to contribute their impressions of the care facilities to the project. While the individual responses will be kept private, the overall results will be made public by the Seniors Advocate’s office.

The project team has recruited about 500 volunteers to perform the surveys and they are now reaching out for more help, including here in Chilliwack to get to everyone in the six care homes. Volunteers sign up for about 30 hours of work over six to eight weeks in their own communities, and those 30 hours include eight hours of training in administering the surveys. Project manager Lillian Parsons said the goal is to wrap it all up by March.

So far, 12,000 residents have been approached with 16,000 volunteer hours logged, but more volunteers are needed. “Each of the volunteers play an important role in our mission to better understand the quality of care and services provided for our seniors living in long-term care facilities,” said Sara Parmar, regional engagement lead for Fraser Health. “The procedure of approaching every resident by a volunteer is to honour the seniors living in care facilities by acknowledging they have a voice and we want to hear it.” Parmar said further that volunteers have had a great experience so far conducting the interviews. “I leave the care facility feeling proud and happy to be a part of this process to learn more about the lived experience of seniors in care,” said one.

“For me personally, [the project] has contributed to my learning and has motivated me to continue to live better now so that I can age successfully later.”

(Originally posted by Paul Henderson, Chilliwack Progress, on January 12th, 2017)

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