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Ethically supporting resident choice and quality of life

April 29, 2022

Without question, like everyone else, residents of long-term care (LTC) homes have the fundamental right to choose how they live their life. Its our teams’ job to support them in living safely. Often though, choices create ethical dilemmas. For example, when the choice poses a health risk, or the resident’s family doesn’t agree.

To empower our teams to advocate for each resident, while balancing safety and rights for all, peopleCare has established an innovative new partnership with the Clinical Ethics team at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Building on peopleCare’s existing ethical framework and practices, LHSC will provide education and regular onsite and virtual support.

Daniel Wyzynski is a Clinical and Research Ethicist with the LHSC team and an Adjunct Research Professor with the University of Western Ontario. He says this new consultative model will give peopleCare’s frontline teams access to the ongoing support and guidance they need when ethical issues arise.

“Ethics can be an uncomfortable topic. Our visits and consultations will help establish rapport and support an open environment for staff to have these complex conversations,” says Wyzynski. “We will also provide educational offerings based on what the teams tell us would be most beneficial, so they can really lean into us for support around the ethical issues that are common in the Homes.”

As a learning organization with a focus on research and innovation, peopleCare has participated in dozens of studies and worked with ethics specialists for many years. Ethical frameworks are critical when it comes to selecting appropriate research topics, and when considering capacity and consent to participate.

Working with LHSC, peopleCare’s goal is to build capability for robust ethical decision-making across our teams and organization: fostering what LHSC refers to as an “ethically aware community.” This would mean everyone, from our leaders to our frontline to families, having more knowledge, better tools and shared understanding of the value in supporting residents in living how they wish.

“Resident choice, from what they eat to who they spend time with, is so closely tied to resident quality of life. We need everyone who cares for our residents on the same page, working together to support their rights and decisions,” says Jeremy Zinger, peopleCare’s Vice President, LTC Operations. “With our history of research and innovation, we know the value of ethics support and the LHSC partnership is a wonderful opportunity to build on our experience with an amazing well-rounded team of ethical specialists.”

Zinger learned of LHSC’s Ethics Team during the pandemic when, like other strong community partners, the hospital-based resource reached out to their colleagues in other sectors. When LHSC recently proposed offering their services to LTC in a more formalized way, Golden Years LTC Director of Care Stella Annan says peopleCare was pleased to get in on the ground floor.

“Collaborating with our hospital partners is always very rewarding and there’s a lot we can learn from each other,” says Annan. “It’s exciting to pilot this new model of ethics support, knowing it will help us continue to ensure the voices of our residents and families are heard, respected, and embedded in every decision we make together.”