A comprehensive New Brunswick report outlines innovative solutions and recommendations for reforming long-term care

Constantine PassarisA recent report by New Brunswick’s Seniors’ Advocate, entitled “What We All Want: A Review and an Urgent Proposal for Change in New Brunswick’s Long-Term Care System,” is a painstakingly thorough document. The report includes an exhaustive list of recommendations for reforming long-term care in New Brunswick. It proposes a road map for navigating contemporary challenges and building a more resilient infrastructure through public policy initiatives and operational efficiencies that will reform long-term care in New Brunswick.

While it offers innovative solutions to chronic problems in this sector, in my opinion, it stands out for adding a new lens in addressing our current challenges and opportunities.

New Brunswick’s recent population growth has been supercharged by the arrival of thousands of new immigrants and refugees. Unlike previous waves of immigration, which have blended almost seamlessly with the host population, recent waves have been distinctly more multicultural, multilingual, and multifaith. Consequently, the report underlines that:

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Newcomers bring much-needed skills, culture, and diversity to our communities, but our long-term care system has historically been centred around the majority population. Newcomers bring with them their own unique cultural and religious expectations and requirements for person-centred care, which must be reflected in revisions to the long-term care sector of New Brunswick going forward.

The report highlights the importance of incorporating a lens for population diversity into the development of a long-term care governance structure and institutional model. The changing face of New Brunswick’s population directly affects our socio-economic environment, leading to both immediate and enduring effects on the effectiveness of our long-term care system.

This covers the availability of appropriate home care, the adequacy of specialized care homes, and the services provided by nursing homes. In short, we must improve the effectiveness and efficiency of long-term care in New Brunswick by inserting the lens of cultural diversity to attain desirable outcomes. Only then will all seniors, including those from diverse cultural backgrounds, feel secure in their dignity, identity, and overall health and wellness.

Addressing our multicultural reality requires some minor adjustments to ensure the implementation of an inclusive healthcare network for our multicultural elderly. In effect, empowering long-term care to address cultural diversity is not a giant leap or a huge burden. Long-term care is already accustomed to tailoring care to address individual health needs. Therefore, customizing long-term care and well-being for cultural diversity is simply another layer added to the personalized care and individual needs required for long-term care. An additional advantage is that strengthening a recipient’s cultural identity improves social inclusion and enhances their physical and emotional well-being.

Injecting a layer of accommodation for diversity requires long-term care homes to be more sensitive, responsive, welcoming, and accommodating towards equity, diversity, and inclusion, especially in the areas of culture, mother tongue and faith. It is worth noting that the multicultural community strongly adheres to maintaining the extended family at home under the care of younger family members. In consequence, there is a delay for multicultural seniors requiring the more expensive institutionalized long-term care.

It goes without saying that this contributes significant savings to the overall cost of providing long-term care. However, we need to identify the type of resources and support that multicultural families require to sustain the physical, medical, and emotional support needed to keep their elderly at home.

In this context, the report recommends that the Department of Social Development collaborate with organizations like the New Brunswick Multicultural Council to develop a profile of future long-term care users. This study should explore the cultural attitudes and service requirements of growing newcomer communities in New Brunswick. An ongoing professional development curriculum should evolve from this initiative for boards, managers, and staff, along with established guidelines and metrics for ensuring inclusivity across all types of long-term care.

A second recommendation proposes that the Department of Social Development should work with training institutions and programs, and review their own training processes, to assess and enhance their training processes to ensure the presence of cross-cultural communication skills throughout the public service and in any future human resources planning.

All these efforts will ensure that every aspect of New Brunswick’s long-term care plan meets the inclusivity and diversification standard needed to accommodate the multicultural, multilingual, and multifaith population profile of our contemporary citizens. Moreover, it will spark social, cultural, religious, and educational activities that resonate with the culturally diverse population of special care homes and nursing homes. As a result, developing guidelines and standards for cultural inclusivity across special care homes, nursing homes, and other institutions affiliated with long-term care will aid in achieving overarching objectives of equity, inclusivity, personal identity, and social integration.

At the end of the day, a multicultural lens for our public policy and institutional architecture has become an essential prerequisite for the efficacy of our social and economic governance in the 21st century.

This is particularly the case for long-term care not only in New Brunswick but across Canada.

Dr. Constantine Passaris is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick and was a member of the Advisory Committee for New Brunswick’s Long Term Care Report. He is a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick.

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