Consultant advocates better care for seniors

Jill O’Donnell, president and founder of Iris Consulting, an advocacy group for seniors, says that seniors are being forced to endure long wait times for proper medical attention.  
When her 97-year-old mother contracted an illness, and the intense stage of the illness passed, she was placed in an alternative level of care (ALC) bed in Toronto East General Hospital. In 2009, the Ontario government established a standardized definition for ALC beds. Ontario said that ALC beds are for patients in a hospital setting who no longer require treatment for acute medical conditions. While waiting for a long-term care bed, where she could receive better treatment, O’Donnell’s mother passed away.
O’Donnell believes her mother would have lived longer if she had received proper treatment.
“Why should a senior who goes into a hospital be funneled into an alternative level of care bed?” O’Donnell asks. “It’s pathetic.”
O’Donnell’s company offers compassionate advice on legal, financial and social issues for seniors. She appeared at the October meeting of the Leaside branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women to discuss the complex needs of East York’s senior population. O’Donnell says that hospitals should focus on rehabilitating clients to get them back to their homes as soon as possible. O’Donnell, who received a degree in nursing from the University of Toronto, suggests hospital staff should encourage clients to interact with each other, playing games such as cards, eating together during meals and participating in other recreational activities to help them recover more quickly from their illnesses.
“If they received stimulation, or were allowed to dress in their street clothes, were permitted to interact with other clients in the hospital, then they would recuperate faster,” O’Donnell says.
But O’Donnell says the response from hospital staff to her suggestion was worrisome.
“They said, ‘We can’t have that,’” she says.
According to O’Donnell, the senior population will outnumber the ‘baby boomers.’ This means there needs to be more access to facilities that care for the aged, as well as more education about geriatric care.
“The fastest growing segment of the population is the over 85-group,” O’Donnell said. “We have a huge number of seniors that are living longer than ever before.”