Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are intended to provide a safe and compassionate environment for your loved ones to live in the latter stages of their life. However, seniors can be vulnerable to abuse and neglect, particularly when they suffer from physical or mental health conditions. Additionally, when long-term care homes are underfunded and understaffed, an appropriate level of care may not always be provided.

We recently wrote about a new law introduced by the Ministry of Long-Term Care that is designed to address some of these challenges. On December 9, 2021, the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors and Building More Beds Act 2021 received royal assent and became law in Ontario. On a future date to be established by the Lieutenant Governor, the Long-Term Care Homes Act 2007 will be repealed and replaced with the Fixing Long-Term Care Act 2021 (Act). 

New legislation creates framework for regulation of long-term care homes

Many of the regulations previously found under the Long-Term Care Homes Act 2007 are being carried over to the new Fixing Long-Term Care Act 2021. However, the new Act proposes certain changes and sets out the framework for the regulation of long-term care homes in Ontario. The period for public consultation on these draft regulations recently closed.

Some of the rules contained in the new regulations include:

  • Detailed guidelines about the rights, care and services that need to be provided to residents (for example, the specific level of light required for corridors and bedrooms);
  • The requirement for care plans to be provided to each resident;
  • Measures aimed at preventing abuse and neglect, including specifics regarding the home’s written policy to promote zero tolerance of abuse and neglect of residents; and
  • Requirements for the licensing and operation of long-term care homes and resident admission.

Regulations establish minimum care hours per resident

One key change is the introduction of a target for the average number of hours of direct care to be provided to residents. This is four hours per resident per day, to be achieved by March 31, 2025. There is also a target of 36 minutes of care to be provided by allied health care professionals per resident per day, to be achieved by March 31, 2023. A calculation method for determining direct care goals is included in the new regulations.

Definition of “caregiver” created

An important change under the new regulations is the definition of the term “caregiver”. This is significant as caregivers have a particular status under the rules. Under the Residents’ Bill of Rights, every resident has a right to ongoing and safe support from their caregivers to support their wellbeing and quality of life. 

Caregivers are deemed “essential visitors” under the new regulations. As a result, long-term care homes must establish and implement policies to ensure such visitors continue to have access during a disease outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic (subject to any applicable laws).

Under the draft regulations, a caregiver is defined as an individual who:

  • is a family member or friend of a resident or a person of importance to a resident;
  • is at least 16 years of age;
  • provides one or more forms of support or assistance to meet the needs of the resident; and 
  • is designated in writing by the resident or their substitute decision-maker with authority to give that designation.

The Ontario Bar Association has queried why a caregiver must be at least 16 years old and called for the removal of this age restriction, arguing: 

From our perspective, there are likely many long-term care residents who derive social and emotional support from their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. who may be under the age of 16 years old. Including age restrictions in the definition of caregiver will unduly restrict resident access to caregivers of their choice.

Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP for Trustworthy Advice on Nursing or Long-Term Care Home Negligence

If you suspect that a loved one may have fallen victim to harm or neglect while in the care of a nursing home or care facility, contact one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall and North Bay. Our team understands the impact elder abuse can have on families. We offer personalized care to help recover some of what has been lost and to hold those responsible financially accountable. Contact us online or at 1-888-799-8057 to book a consultation.

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