A significant lack of socio-demographic data in long-term care homes could dampen the development of new standards and programs meant to improve elder care in Canada.
Despite the toll COVID-19 has taken on vulnerable populations, a new report from the National Institute on Ageing and Wellesley Institute — Leaving No One Behind in Long-term Care: Enhancing Socio-demographic Data Collection in Long-term Care Settings — shows there is a failure to collect this data, which means that inequitable effects of the pandemic may remain unaccounted for and inadequately addressed.
“This has implications beyond the pandemic as well,” says Dr. Ashley Flanagan, a research fellow at the NIA. “In Canada, health outcomes differ based on factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity, language, race, immigration status, and ethnicity, as well as access to affordable housing, adequate income and social inclusion.
“Policies, programs and resources cannot effectively close gaps in care or improve health outcomes without a better understanding of the diverse needs of residents and workers in long-term care.”
Canada continues to lag behind other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States in collecting socio-demographic data in LTC settings. “With growing diversity in Canada’s aging population, it is crucial that services and programs provided in long-term care settings reflect residents’ language, culture, and other diverse needs,” says Dr. Seong-gee Um, a researcher at Wellesley Institute.
To facilitate enhanced data collection in long-term care settings, the report provides five recommendations:
- Ensure clarity exists amongst individuals living and working in LTC settings about the purposes of socio-demographic data collection.
- Build trust through community engagement in the design and implementation of socio-demographic data collection initiatives.
- Ensure standardized socio-demographic data is collected across Canada’s LTC settings.
- Ensure appropriate skills, training and understanding are established for those collecting socio-demographic data.
- Ensure a commitment is developed to effectively and appropriately use the socio-demographic data being collected.