Should I leave my retirement or long-term care home due to COVID-19? New tools can help with tough decisions

April 22, 2020

Dr. Dawn Stacey.“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,” -Dr. Dawn Stacey.Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network and the National Institute of Ageing have developed toolto help seniors decide if they should temporarily move out of their retirement, assisted living or long-term care home, due to the risk of COVID-19.  

The researchers recently published two decision aids, one focused on retirement and assisted living homes, and another on long-term care and nursing homes 

Decision aids are tools that can help people understand their options and the outcomes of options, so they can make trade-offs aligned with what is most important to them. These decision aids also help ensure that an individual’s care needs can be met.   

“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.”   

Decision aids normally take months or years to develop and testUnderstanding the urgency of this particular decision, the team used their 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.  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 

Authors: Dawn Stacey RN, PhD; Claire Ludwig RN, PhD(c); Josee Lavoie MSW RSW; Samir Sinha MD, DPhil, FRCPC 

Contributors:  Nancy Edwards RN (non-practicing), PhD; Kevin Babulic BSc(PT), BSc;  

Decision Aid Format: Annette O’Connor PhD  

Funding: University of Ottawa Research Chair in Knowledge Translation to Patients, held by Dr. Dawn Stacey 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones. 

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