B.C. long-term care changes aim to give residents and families more say in policy

VICTORIA — The B.C. government says it's giving long-term care residents and their families a more direct line of communication with decision-makers on issues that affect them, after many expressed frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mable Elmore, parliamentary secretary for senior services, says changes to the residential care regulation will strengthen the voices of resident and family councils.

The councils, which she likened to residential stratas, are groups of people who meet regularly to promote the collective interests of residents and discuss concerns.

The changes include requiring operators to meet more frequently with the councils and the formation of regional and provincial committees.

They come after many families expressed distress during the COVID-19 pandemic about staffing shortages, inconsistent compliance with health regulations and a lack of say over their loved ones' care.

Kim Slater, founder of Family Councils of BC, says the changes are a "game-changer" that will add family voices to policy decision-making, which has historically only included the Health Ministry, health authorities, workers unions and service providers.

"Now, the very people who are actually experiencing long-term care, up close and personal, will have a guaranteed independent collective voice in policy decisions that are impacting them."

Nola Galloway said she helped form an independent family council for her father's home after he went into care in 2009.

She said she believes the councils are essential contributors to improving the quality of life for residents in long-term care, but the pandemic highlighted why it was important they have a guaranteed voice in decisions that affect them.

"Families felt helpless as decisions were being made that tremendously impacted them and their loved ones, yet they had zero input into those decisions."

Those independent councils banded together to form regional associations and then a provincial one, the Family Councils of BC, early this year, she said.

The changes announced Thursday should alleviate some of the challenges those bodies have previously faced without detailed Health Ministry protocols in place to support them, Galloway said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press