An Opportunity To Re-Think Long-Term Care in Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences for both staff and residents of long-term care homes. If there is one silver lining into the tragedy that ensued, it is that the pandemic raised awareness of problems and limitations that exist in many long-term care environments. As a reflection of the increased public attention that long-term care has been receiving, our research has demonstrated a 450% increase in the number of relevant social media posts on Twitter post-pandemic as compared to before the pandemic.
Social media is considered by many to be a reflection of the views of society as a whole. Researchers have even suggested that examination of social media posts can lead to more accurate assessments of public opinion than polls. The dramatic increase in the number of posts (pre- vs. post- pandemic) shows a corresponding increase in public interest on the problems facing long-term care. The posts that followed the declaration of the pandemic covered a variety of topics such systemic problems, interventions, government actions, praise for LTC workers and organizations, positive stories and provision and seeking of information. Unsurprisingly, concerns about infection control were also prominent after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Policy change is often motivated by changes in public opinion which is what is happening with long-term care right now. Largely as a result of increased public attention, national initiatives have been put in place to improve conditions and standards in long-term care environments. This is an opportune time for change.
Among the many changes that are needed is the necessity to improve pain assessment and management among residents with dementia. This is a population whose pain problems tend to be underrecognized and undertreated. Loss of cognitive capacity, that comes with dementia, limits ability to communicate subjective states such as pain and to advocate for better pain care. We ought to improve standards for pain assessment and management in this group of older adults. These standards should include requirements for continuing pain education of point-of-care staff (to familiarize them with the latest developments in pain assessment and management) including methods of recognizing pain in those with limited ability to communicate. Policy changes necessitating more frequent standardized pain assessment and documentation of recommended and appropriate pain management interventions are also needed.
Our website seepainmoreclearly.org provides resources and information on this topic for policy makers, health care providers, patients and family members as well as researchers.
How You Can Help?
Would you like to share your thoughts on our See Pain More Clearly campaign and the use of social media to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia?
We are looking for policymakers, researchers, healthcare workers and family caregivers to participate in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the #SeePainMoreClearly social media initiative to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia.