Coronavirus: No easy fix for problems in Canada’s nursing, retirement homes

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For years, those living and working in nursing and retirement homes across the country have struggled as overburdened caregivers tried to maintain a basic level of care and dignity for aging and ailing Canadians.

It happened behind closed doors, said Carole Estabrooks, a professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta, with people typically only knowing the state of things if they or their loved ones moved into a long-term care facility.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the deficiencies turned deadly.

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“It didn’t just shine a light, it shone a cascade of halogen lights,” said Estabrooks, who has collected data on long-term care for 15 years.

“And the public’s horrified and they’re listening now,” she said. “But my God, what it took.”

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A man in his 80s died of COVID-19 in early March after becoming infected with the novel coronavirus at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, B.C. It was Canada’s first death related to the pandemic, and the beginning of a rash of outbreaks — and a crisis — in care homes across the country.

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