Watching and
Working for Change

Alberta's continuing care system is increasingly in the public spotlight as a matter of public interest and concern. The terms and language used to describe the system today are confusing and constantly changing. The definitions and settings also vary by regional health authority and specific location.

The current system - broadly comprised of traditional long term care facilities (i.e. nursing homes and auxiliary hospitals) and assisted living and other types of supportive living facilities and home care - is complex. Figuring out what it’s all about, what works well, what the problems are, how serious they are or what can (and is) being done to address them, isn’t easy.

To complicate things even further, there are growing disparities between what government, regional health authorities or operators of traditional long term care facilities and supportive/assisted living facilities say about the quality and cost of care and services provided and what residents themselves, their families and advocates experience and say. Somewhere in-between are the findings of the Alberta Auditor General's 2005 audit of long-term care and supportive living facilities.

CITIZEN WATCH is designed to help you sort through the confusing or conflicting information, de-code the jargon, gain new insights, and encourage public discussion, public scrutiny and public action on important issues related to continuing care in Alberta.

Here you can read regular reports and input, and share your experiences, observations and perspectives. your experiences, observations and perspectives.


 NEW February 2009 MLA Bulletin 7 discusses the recently released Health Quality Council of Alberta Survey of Long Term Care

 NEW January 2009  Continuing Care Strategy Falls Short for Seniors: Carol Wodak comments on the Alberta Government's new Continuing Care Strategy in an editorial published in the Edmonton Journal on January 5, 2009.

In December 2008, the Alberta Government released a new Continuing Care Strategy , Aging in the Right Place, with a Fact Sheet summary.

 NEW December 2008 Linda Somerville describes why it matters if prescription drug coverage isn't a universal benefit in an article published in the Edmonton Journal, December 22, 2008.

NEW December 2008 The Alberta Government's Service Optimization Review 2008 is the basis for the latest health care reforms, including the Continuing Care Strategy. 

The company commissioned to do the report, McKinsey Group, is an international management consulting firm advising leading companies on issues of strategy, organization, technology, operations, and marketing.  Their Healthcare Payor and Provider Practice serves health insurers, health-maintenance organizations, preferred-provider organizations, defined-contribution plans, and pharmacy-benefit managers.

NEW December 2008 The Access to Justice Network Alberta  has recognized our website as a featured site during the past week. We have added their site to our Resource Links; their section on You and the Law: Older Adults & Seniors Planning for the Future is a useful resource.

 NEW December 2008 The issue of patient safety in continuing care seems to have been forgotten in the government's recent reports. Citizen Watch sent out a press release (Citizen Watch on Continuing Care Calls for More Focus on Safety) to draw attention to MLA Bulletin 6 (Keeping Seniors Safe in Long Term Care).

 NEW December 2008 An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal discusses Canadian moves to privatizing health care; it is a useful context for thinking about the changes recently announced for continuing care in Alberta.

 NEW December 2008 Four reports from the Alberta Government have recently been released: the Demographic Planning Commission Report ; the Health Quality Council of Alberta Long Term Care Resident and Family Experience Survey ; the new Pharmaceutical Strategy; and the new Continuing Care Strategy. We'd be interested in hearing your comments on these documents; we will be posting our analysis of their impacts on continuing care soon.

 NEW December 2008 The Hon. Ron Liepert, Minister of Health and Wellness, has responded to our letter of November 30, 2008; his letter is posted in the MLA Bulletin section. It's discouraging that he is too busy to talk to us.

 NEW November 2008 The Hon. Ron Liepert and the Hon. Iris Evans have sent responses to our MLA Bulletins. We are very encouraged by their participation in this public discussion of eldercare issues. The letters are posted in the MLA Bulletin section, with our replies.

 NEW November 2008 MLA Bulletin 6 explores concerns about the safety of seniors in residential continuing care settings.  A separate copy of MLA Bulletin 6 referenced includes the main references used in this research.

NEW November 2008 Caregiver Community Consultations - A Report of the Findings

The Alberta Disabilities Forum has released a report from the community consultations to identify the needs of caregivers and the users of caregiver services for respite and other supports.


 NEW November 2008 Home Care: The Change We Need is an independent report of the Ontario home care services; many of the recommendations are also relevant to home care in Alberta.

NEW November 2008 The Canadian Patient Safety Institute's May 2008 Newsletter introduces a new report on Safety in Long Term Care Settings. The CPSI also has a report on Falls in Ontario Long Term Care, and Broadening the Patient Safety Agenda to Include Home Care Services.

 NEW November 2008 The Dalhousie University Health Law Institute has published reports about governance and patient safety. Patient Safety Law: From Silos to Systems, and the Appendices Key Concepts, the patient safety framework in Canada, and Occupational Health and Safety are particularly relevant to resident safety in our long term care facilities.

NEW November 2008 Eldercare: What We Know Today is a 2008 Statistics Canada report highlights caregivers' increasing need for help with the demands of looking after the elderly.


 NEW October 2008 MLA Bulletin 5 talks about some current issues on the legislative agenda: home care, dental care for seniors, and the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.

NEW October 2008  The Minister of Health and Wellness, the Hon. Ron Liepert, responded to our MLA Bulletin 3 saying that the Government of Alberta is aware of the Senate Committee's work, and that Alberta Health and Wellness will continue to improve provincial home care services.  We have posted the letter in the MLA Bulletin section.

We welcome responses from MLAs and the Government to the specific issues addressed in the Bulletins; we'd especially like to hear about solutions.

 NEW October 2008  The Alberta Long Term Care Association (which represents the owners and operators of most Alberta long term care facilities) has changed its name to the Alberta Continuing Care Association, has a new Executive Director and a new website at a new address.  We've updated their listing on the Helpful Links page.

NEW September 2008  MLA Bulletin 4 is a "Wait and See" checklist of unfinished continuing care initiatives, some started as long ago as 2002. We hope it will remind all of us, and especially our MLAs, that unfinished business needs attention.

NEW September 2008  A new report from the Parkland Institute, "Sustainable Healthcare for Seniors: Keeping it Public" is yet more evidence that the provincial government can easily afford to improve the public services and healthcare currently available to seniors, and that it should do so quickly.

The report can be downloaded from this link or call the Parkland Institute directly at 780-492-8558 to order print copies. The executive summary of the report is available at this link

NEW September 2008 In 2005, the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society and James Darwish launched a class action lawsuit against the Government and the Regional Health Authorities, claiming that the 2003 long term care resident fee increase of 40% involved charging residents for services that are insured under the Canada Health Act, instead of charging residents only for the costs of accommodation and meals. The lawsuit was certified by the Alberta Court of Queen s Bench in August 2008, and will proceed to trial unless there is a pre-trial resolution.

The Elder Advocates and James Darwish 2008 Class Action Report provides a backgrounder describing the evolution of the funding and fees of Alberta s residential long term care facilities, a summary of the issues discussed in the Court Decision, and links to the Statement of Claim and the Certification Decision from the Court.

UPDATE November 2008 The Government of Alberta has apparently begun an appeal of the certification order.

NEW September 2008  Family Caregivers contribute billions of dollars' worth of unpaid work to ensure their loved ones get the care and support they need to age at home.  In August 2008, CARP outlined a National Caregivers Strategy in a recent submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

  NEW September 2008 Taking Stock is a 1996 report from the Consumers' Association of Canada (Alberta), which is just as timely today as it was a dozen years ago. It's an easy-to-read 36 page report, with many "real person" examples, on how healthcare costs were shifted to individuals, families, and employer sponsored benefit plans as care was moved out of hospitals during the early 1990s.

  NEW September 2008  MLA Bulletin 3 is more about home care, as well as palliative care, respite care, and informal caregiver support, from the second Senate Report, Issues and Options for an Aging Population.

The Senate report also discusses
challenges faced by seniors who experience income insecurity, social exclusion and isolation, ill health and loss of independence.

 NEW July 2008 MLA Bulletin 2 has been sent to our MLAs; the topic is home care, and the findings about home care from Donna Wilson's latest study of Alberta public home care.

 NEW June 2008  "Violence, Insufficient Care, and Downloading of Heavy Care Patients: An evaluation of increasing need and inadequate standards in Ontario's nursing homes" is the Ontario Health Coalition's new report documenting insufficient care levels, violence and increasing care needs in Ontario nursing homes. Despite increased funding, hands-on care time and health outcomes have not improved since 1995.
 Summary: Executive Summary OHC Nursing Home Report May 2008

The Ontario Government has just issued its report and recommendations for long term care regulations, following a year-long public consultation process. The Ontario Health Coalition's report People Caring for People challenges the findings and recommendations of the Government's report.

The Ontario Health Coalition is a network of over 400 community organizations concerned with public education and support for public debate about health care. 

 NEW June 2008 Alberta Rural Health Region Audit reports from 2006 are now available. The sections on continuing care, home care/community care are interesting; keep in mind that these are management efficiency audits, which do not address access, quality or appropriateness of care, or health outcomes.

Note Update notices are periodically archived; click on the What's New link in the menu list in the column on the left.