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Ottawa researchers helping retirement, long-term care residents decide if they should leave during COVID-19

A tool has been developed by The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa, to help seniors assess their current situations.
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(stock photo)

As many Ottawa retirement residences and long-term care homes deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, local researchers have launched an assessment tool to help families which are discussing whether or not to pull their loved ones from their current living envoironments.

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital (TOH), the University of Ottawa, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network and the National Institute of Ageing have helped develop two decision aids: one focused on retirement and assisted living homes, and another on long-term care and nursing homes.  

Officials from TOH say the retirement home tool is relevant nationally, while the long-term care tool applies to Ontario-only at this point. 

"We know that many residents and their loved ones are already having these conversations, so we wanted to give them tools to help them clearly think through their options," said Dr. Dawn Stacey, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. "These decision aids walk them through questions like, what care do they need and who will provide it? Is there space in the home where they can self-isolate for two weeks? Are there grab-bars in the bathroom? It’s not a simple decision, and there are many things to consider."

TOH says decision aids normally take months or years to develop and test. Understanding the urgency of this particular decision, the team used its well-tested template and assembled these new decision aids in about a week.  

"The creation of these decision aids comes at a very critical point in this pandemic for nursing and retirement homes residents and their families," said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto and Director of Health Policy Research - National Institute on Ageing. 

"Especially for those in Quebec and Ontario where over 1,000 homes are in outbreak, families are understandably asking if it would be better to be cared for and supported outside one of these homes during the pandemic," the doctor expalined. "This is not an easy decision to make during a stressful time and certainly not one that anyone should make without having the information they need to make the right choice for them. As the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care has made it easier for families to do what is right for them in these situations, these decision aids will help families better navigate these incredibly difficult decisions they may be considering."

While these decision aids have not been validated in research studies, they are based on a template that has been tested in multiple studies.  

These tools can be found on The Ottawa Hospital Decision Aids website. Any user feedback should be directed to 


Mike Vlasveld

About the Author: Mike Vlasveld

Mike Vlasveld, Village Media Community Editor,
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