Volunteers wanted for province-wide survey of seniors

The Office of the Seniors Advocate will use the survey results to assess how seniors feel about their residential care facilities.

More than 27

More than 27

The Office of the Seniors Advocate is continuing to recruit volunteers for a survey of 27,000 seniors who live in 300 residential care facilities across the province.

More than 250 volunteers have already signed up to be part of the residential care survey team, but there are still a range of volunteer opportunities available. The survey marks the first time in B.C. that feedback from seniors in residential care has been comprehensively collected.

“The surveying has started already in Vancouver and Victoria, and has been well underway since June,” says seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie, who adds that the surveying will last into early December. “Our initial recruitment is done, and now fresh recruitment is underway.”

Volunteers are given a list of about 80 questions, which cover everything from the quality of food at the facility to how residents view the care staff. Mackenzie says that applicants for the volunteer position are screened, with successful candidates given a day of training.

They then go to the residential care facility to which they have been assigned, and approach all the residents to see who is willing to be surveyed. Mackenzie says that about half of all residents agree to take part.

The schedule for the volunteers is very flexible, she says. “You choose when you do the surveying, and commit to doing 10 interviews.” Each survey takes 30 to 90 minutes to complete.

Mackenzie says volunteers start to engage with residents regarding their life at the facility. “The feedback I get from volunteers is heartwarming and engaging. People all have interesting stories, and some have very colourful pasts.”

BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie

Jessica Kleissen, the regional engagement lead for the Interior Health region, says they are looking for volunteers to survey residents at Jackson House at the Ashcroft Hospital. At least six people are needed for a training session, which means area volunteers would probably go to Merritt or Kamloops for their day of training. Kleissen anticipates that the surveys in Ashcroft, Merritt, and Lillooet will be conducted in October, with training taking place at the end of September.

“If people are willing to travel, that’s welcome,” she adds. “People need to be willing to go for the day, typically Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until lunchtime and then 1 to about 4:30 p.m.”

She notes that if people have a friend they want to do the surveys with, they can both go to the same site. She says she’s heard of some friends who make a social day out of it, conducting their surveys and then sharing an evening out.

Mackenzie took part in one of the training sessions in Victoria, and was very impressed by the others in her session. “People will find this a very meaningful volunteer experience.”

When the surveys have been completed, the data will be collected and assessed on three levels, says Mackenzie. “We will look at the data province-wide: do people feel safe and secure? Do they have an awareness of the medications they are taking? Then we will look by health authority, and see what differences there are.

“And we will look at individual facilities, to see where there are pockets of excellence, where there are deficiencies, and why. The takeaway will be what are systemic issues throughout the province, what is specific to a particular health authority, and what is specific to a certain facility.”

The results of the survey will “allow us to move the ball forward in terms of the quality of experience for seniors,” continues Mackenzie. “The quality of facilities is looked at by clinicians, but it could be argued that what is most important is how the person living there views their quality of life. For example, they care about whether they can be mobile, not about the number of falls at the facility.”

She says that the survey is an attempt to shift the way of thinking away from the idea that people go to residential care to be “cured” or “fixed”, and more to the quality of life they have there.

“We need to step back as a society and say what’s important here. It’s about the life satisfaction for residents.”

For more information about being a volunteer for the survey, contact Jessica Kleissen at (250) 863-1242 or jkleissen@providencehealth.bc.ca, or go to www.surveybcseniors.org.