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August 28, 2019 This post is written by a student intern at Baycrest’s Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI), as part of a reflective series.

Written by: Naomi Wilkes, B.A.

The last seven weeks have seen me and nine other student interns placed at the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research, & Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) at Baycrest. This year’s interns come from different academic backgrounds including therapeutic recreation, social work, kinesiology, medicine, occupational therapy and nursing. We’ve had the opportunity to shadow various staff members from departments within Baycrest, including the Apotex and the hospital, as well as travel to other long-term care homes in Toronto to explore practices across the city. The overall focus has been to foster a commitment to interprofessional collaboration that we will carry with us into our respective professional fields. 

As students, we are at an exciting time in our lives where we have the freedom to choose the direction in which we will go. We all have an interest in gerontology and working with the older adult population, which is much-needed both now and over the next few decades. The possibilities in this line of work seem endless, and I often find myself contemplating the various pathways available to me. Baycrest and the CLRI gave me the opportunity to explore some of these pathways.

For instance, the long-term care system currently has a plethora of waitlists and a shortage of beds. There is an emphasis on community care and staying at home as long as possible before moving to long-term care to try and offset the strain. Inevitably, an average stay in long-term care is shorter than it used to be, as people are moving-in closer to the end of their lives. During one of our observerships, a nurse in a Toronto long-term care home told us that her residents, who are in long-term care for six to eight months on average, require palliative care when they arrive.

I wonder: since there is a large population of people moving into long-term care for the last stage of their lives, why not open more hospices? Long-term care should have established policies and services around palliative and end-of-life care (and they do), but I was able to shadow the Palliative Care unit in Baycrest’s hospital, and I was able to see the specific resources they have in working with those who are dying. Ontario has a mix of hospice services, with some residential hospices and even more facilities that offer volunteer services in a person’s home. I’ve become very interested in palliative and end-of-life care, particularly in exploring how we approach death care as a multicultural and diverse society. 

Still, with Baby Boomers aging, what will we do after that generation has died? I’m only just on the threshold of entering the workforce, and I will see both sides of this population shift. The new builds, the extended resources, the adapted facilities. How will we repurpose the infrastructure being established? Can we use those resources to support the next vulnerable population in need? Models of housing like dementia villages could make ideal student or low-income housing, depending on the need. 

That being said, it's hard to say what our society will need as the years pass. There are countries with older populations like Japan that have a cultural focus on intergenerational care and living, but that philosophy of care is not as mainstream in Canada. The senior care industry will flex and change. As practitioners, we will need to change with it to deliver quality, person-centred care. One thing I know for sure: the interns I’ve had the pleasure of working with are passionate, capable and dedicated to their fields of choice. As I age, I hope that I am fortunate enough to receive care from professionals who are as talented as them.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Baycrest.
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