Bioethics Blogs


Mary Jo Bernard and Jodie Penwarden call for a review of practices and policies that contribute to hostile working and living conditions in long-term care facilities.


Violence is on the rise in long-term care facilities. This is due to both an increase in ‘challenging behaviours’ on the part of residents and an increase in the number of front-line staff working alone due to staff shortages. Often, when workers are ill or injured (sometimes as a direct result of rushing through physical labour all day long), their shifts are not covered.

When there are not enough trained staff on the floor, the residents suffer. They sit in soiled clothing with their call bells ringing, they are rushed through unpleasant meal times, and they are pushed in a commode to their shower through common space in nothing but a towel. Meanwhile, staff become demoralized and the environment risks becoming hostile.

A case from O’Leary, Prince Edward Island, first reported in the spring of 2015, demonstrates how a culture of hostility in long-term care facilities can result in poor quality care.

During the summer of 2016, a resident care worker at a government-funded long-term care facility was fired by Health P.E.I after sharing a photo (which is described as a ‘head shot’) of a deceased resident via Snapchat. Health P.E.I. launched an investigation into the incident and learned a number of disturbing facts. The photo that was shared included an inappropriate caption and was forwarded to someone outside of the workplace. As well, over a period of months, the employee in question had shared numerous other photos of vulnerable residents while they were eating, sleeping, or receiving care after a bowel movement.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.