Canadian Long-Term Care Aides Faced Mental and Emotional Distress Enforcing COVID-19 Isolation

Canadian study shows that long-term care aides in facilities expressed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as COVID-19 spread through nursing homes. Research shows concern for health and well-being of care providers as important for staff as it is for residents.

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Canadian Long-Term Care Aides Faced Mental and Emotional Distress Enforcing COVID-19 Isolation
2 Min Read September 26th, 2022

COVID-19 is still a health problem, especially in long-term care facilities worldwide. A new study reviewed the problem in Canada and found the staff in facilities faced tremendous stress in enforcing isolation and doing their jobs. 

A brief published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society studied the experience of aides working in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Certified nursing assistants and personal support workers comprise the largest group of long-term health care facility staffers. These workers provide as much as 90% of direct care to residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

While the focus of long-term care facilities remains the health and well-being of the care recipients, the health and well-being of the staff directly affect both quality of care and the quality of life for residents.

Quality of Care Influenced by Health & Safety of Staffers

A study funded by the Alberta Ministry of Health interviewed long-term care aides from eight long-term care facilities in Alberta and one in British Columbia, Canada. The results revealed the impact on staff during the virus crisis. The results can be used going forward to maintain quality of care and maintain the health and well-being of the staff providing the care.

The results were not surprising to many experts. The long-term care aides experienced mental and emotional distress from enforcing resident isolation, grief related to resident deaths, fear of contracting and spreading COVID-19, increased workload combined with staffing shortages, and rapidly changing policies.

The study showed that the resilience of long-term care aides was supported by their strong relationships, faith and community, and capacity to maintain positive attitudes.

Long-Term Care in Canada

Long-term care facilities are not publicly insured under the Canada Health Act. It is governed by provincial and territorial legislation. Across Canada, jurisdictions offer a different range of services and cost coverage. 

Home care services are not publicly insured through the Canada Health Act in the same way as hospital and physician services. In Canada, most home and community care services are delivered by provincial, territorial, and some municipal governments.

Private Long-Term Care Insurance in Canada provides funding for the policyholder to receive personal in-home care or facility care in the facility of their choice. Many Canadian families will provide care for loved ones before being sent to a care facility.

Key Points from Study

There were several points from the research:

  • In long-term care, staff illnesses, additional infection prevention and control measures, and changing orders restricting visitors and enforcing isolation resulted in significantly increased workloads and less time available for care aides care for residents. 

COVID-19 heightened fears of transmitting the virus to residents at work and family members at home.

  • Care aides experienced mental distress from enforcing severe isolation measures that resulted in the resident decline, from the deaths of residents due to COVID-19; and from an overwhelming fear of contracting the virus themselves or spreading it to their families.

  • Care aides used unique coping strategies, including relationships with coworkers, extended family, and faith and cultural communities, as consistent sources of resilience.

Long-term care facilities continue to be significantly affected by COVID-19.

Aides experienced significant hardships mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and economically. However resilient they are, they require adequate support going forward. This includes sufficient staffing levels and resources, pandemic preparedness, and mental health supports.

The study showed that the strain on resources during the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting negative effects on residents have amplified the need to ensure sufficient direct care hours for resident care and to ensure adequate mental health and wellness support for long-term care aides, as well as supportive work environments.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

There is little question that the quality of care is a major concern for families when a loved one requires long-term health care. Few people have given much thought to the need for long-term care, so when the time happens, families face a crisis.

In-home care is the preferred method of receiving future long-term health care, yet many people end up in long-term care facilities without planning. No matter where someone receives care, quality of care is the primary focus.

Quality of care means money. There are some people still under the impression that government programs pay for long-term care. In the United States, Medicaid will pay for long-term health care services, but only when the care recipient has little or no income or assets.

Long-Term Care Insurance provides guaranteed tax-free resources, giving the policyholder control and independence. When you own a policy, you can choose quality care options, including care at home.

An LTC policy will safeguard income and assets and reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on family members who often become default caregivers.

Most people get their coverage in their 50s as they plan for their future retirement. 

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There is a lot of misinformation or inaccurate information about long-term health care planning on the internet. Not every insurance agent or financial advisor has the expertise to assist you with long-term care planning. LTC NEWS can help.

The  Frequently Asked Questions section of LTC NEWS addresses the most frequently asked issues concerning long-term health care planning.

You can find all the resources available on LTC NEWS right here - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.

Cost of LTC Services Increasing Rapidly

The cost of long-term health care services is rapidly increasing.

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To navigate the numerous options, you need the assistance of a knowledgeable Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Additionally, a specialist can assist you in discovering the most cost-effective option based on your age, health, and family history.

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How About Elderly Parents? They Need Care Now!

If your older parents or family members are declining and need help now, what can you do to help? Regardless of whether they have an LTC policy, you can get assistance choosing reliable caregivers or long-term care facilities and recommendations for an appropriate care plan - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Make sure your loved one uses their Long-Term Care Insurance coverage if they are fortunate enough to have one. Families sometimes postpone using the benefits because they believe they should save them for later. It is not a good idea to put off using the available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits.

Can a Reverse Mortgage Be Helpful?

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource. You can fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. 

You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew," will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

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