Long-term support
Nurses discuss abuse and neglect prevention

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 20/98) - Long-term care residents have the same needs and rights as everyone else.

While the concept may seem simple enough, it is sometimes easy for caregivers working long hours, or stressed from a lot of work to forget these rights and snap at patients.

"It happens," says Teresa Lukawiecki, who came to Yellowknife from Ottawa to facilitate a two-day workshop on abuse prevention in long-term care last week.

"We know it's out there."

The aim of the workshop was to help participants return to their communities and build on each resident's rights and abilities, provide good physical care and emotional support.

Residents may have Alzheimer's disease, be stroke survivors or quadriplegic.

"A lot of times people aren't aware what they're doing is abusive," says Karen Ennis, a registered nurse from Hay River.

"Being supportive could mean letting people choose between the blue dress and the red dress and not just saying, 'put this on.'"

Still, none of the nurses could name specific examples of abuse in their long-term care facilities.

"They have the right to receive visitors, the right to receive privacy and dignity," says Inuvik's Pauline Spurrell.

"They have the same rights as everybody else. Even though they're in a facility that seems to dictate how they live, they should be able to keep their freedoms."

To foster an environment of respect, nurses discussed how to protect a resident's sense of dignity and self while recognizing individuality.

"We're visitors in their home," says Cheryl Comin from Fort Smith.

Though the conference focused on abuse prevention, Ennis says people could misconstrue what abuse means.

Abuse may be not giving people the breakfast they want when they want it.

Often residents come into a facility and are given open pyjamas to wear back to front. They can sometimes feel it is easy to relinquish all their decisions to their caregivers.

"We're taking the hospital environment out of long-term care," Spurrell says.

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