Long-Term Care in Rural Alberta: Exploring Autonomy and Capacity for Action

Brassolotto, J, et al. 2020. Long-Term Care in Rural Alberta: Exploring Autonomy and Capacity for Action. Journal of Long-Term Care, (2020), 80–90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/jltc.31

In Alberta, 17% of the population lives in rural communities (Statistics Canada, 2012). Restructuring has led to health care service centralization in urban centres, a withdrawal of government support services, and a limited amount of data on rural health and health services. Additionally, there are a number of rural-specific health care issues. Broadly, these can include: few transportation options, moving residents out of their home communities in order to access the first available and appropriate LTC bed, spouses or partners unable to find housing options near one another, challenges with recruiting and retaining health and LTC professionals and other staff, and the aging of rural workers and communities.

Despite these issues, many rural communities demonstrate considerable resilience and provide excellent care and support for older adults. These strengths, as well as the challenges and opportunities of rural LTC, are underexplored. We aimed to address this gap by exploring the care work performed in Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) owned and operated LTC homes in rural parts of the province. In this article, we outline our findings related to rural autonomy and capacity for action. These findings offer new insights related to how staff in rural LTC homes are empowered to create change and/or stifled and constrained from doing so.

Key Findings: Our findings suggest that LTC homes are crucial for and closely entwine with rural communities. LTC planning needs to account for rurality not only as a geographic consideration, but also as a social determinant of health that, if left unconsidered, may exacerbate the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage, limited service availability, and more hazardous environmental and transportation