Eldercare a priority for ecclesiastical province this year

 on April 1, 2022

The Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario settled into the virtual work world as the pandemic set in for the long haul. A quick but not-so-easy pivot to online communication allowed important collaborative ministry to continue at the provincial level. While the format of this work changed, the critical need for it to continue did not. 

The ecclesiastical province has done its best to adapt amidst two years of constant change. Archbishop Anne Germond and the bishops of the province’s seven dioceses met virtually with increasing frequency to take on the ever-changing challenges presented by the pandemic. The executive officers of the dioceses continued to work at streamlining resources. Work that was going on before the pandemic continued, with demands increasing as the weeks of restrictions turned into months and then years. 

Along with the growing ministry workload, the issue of eldercare became an unexpected aspect of the ecclesiastical province’s mandate during the pandemic. The inadequate care of seniors in the secular provincial system became a glaringly visible crisis as the death toll from the pandemic increased. A once-hidden problem became a noticeable systemic failing. It became obvious that Ontario’s long-term care system for seniors was not just showing cracks in its stability but had turned into a clear breakdown of care. Its deficiencies not only affected seniors needing support but their paid and family caregivers, both in institutions and at home. 

The work to understand the magnitude of this provincial failing has been overwhelming for those in the ecclesiastical province who took this mandate on. The lack of consistent care and working support systems for seniors throughout the pandemic was evident, but finding a starting point at which to tackle the issue was daunting. 

A year and a half later, the ecclesiastical province’s Eldercare Working Group has found its footing. Appeals to the seven dioceses for input on seniors’ care, along with work with legal advocacy groups such as the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, has started the wheels turning. The working group is taking a two-pronged approach, with the first focused on the creation of a set of resources that all parishes can easily access and use. The work of gathering resources that will guide both seniors and caregivers has begun. The resources will contain information about powers of attorney, reporting guidelines, how and who reports are made to, care for an aging population, responsibilities of those caring for the elderly and how parishes and the community can support those who are struggling not only in care homes but also their own living spaces. These resources will be easily accessible to those in the ecclesiastical province who need them. This resource tool will grow over time as additions are made and maintained. 

The second aspect of eldercare that the ecclesiastical province will look at is one of advocacy. How do we as the Anglican Church make sure that seniors get the respect and care they not only need but deserve? What steps need to happen in caring for a group of people who are often vulnerable and alone? There is no quick answer on how to deal with this, and it will not be tackled until the first phase is complete. It will take time to assess, plan and move forward. As much as the ecclesiastical province would like to get everything in place quickly, it is not that simple. There is no quick fix for a system that has been failing for years. Small, thorough steps will move it forward in the hopes that advocacy will gain traction and encourage change. 

The ecclesiastical province will continue to be a strong ministry team as the world continues to adapt and change in a post-pandemic world. It will not forget the new things learned and the failings encountered. The forced adaption means that the often slow wheels of change in churchland have sped up. This is a good thing. Closer diocesan ties and expanded ecclesiastical support, along with working towards a better world for our seniors, is just the beginning of the ecclesiastical province’s mandate heading into 2022.


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