We need to take every opportunity to protect the people we love, Part 1 by Tina Y. Gerber

by The Standard | Podcast Sept 23rd, 2021

Looking after my Mother while she suffered through Dementia and Parkinson’s has been very challenging. It was the right time to place her in the Dementia Wing of a local Nursing Home. This was the toughest thing my sister and I have ever done. You try to do all the relevant research, visit homes, ask questions, trusting you have done, all the right and loving things a devoted child can be expected to do, while trying to keep your loved one safe and protect their well-being and dignity. We were blessed Mother still had lucid moments, and we cherished those connections.

I am writing about my Mother’s death which occurred while she was living in a Long-Term Care Home in Kawartha Lakes. Writing this allows me to not only grieve but make her life matter, giving her a voice through my words, stepping up and making a difference for others. I desperately want the world to know my Mother was more than just another statistic, so as to ensure others don’t experience the harm and suffering my Mother experienced. It is our belief this incident could have been prevented!

It is always a learning curve when one must realize their main source of learning and support would soon expire, leaving me and my sister orphans. My Mother was living with Parkinson’s and Dementia. It was like losing a piece of her daily, but to have her die senselessly is unbearable. We will always have the minutes and the moments to recount her smiles, the lessons we learned, and the love we shared for one another. Truly a blessing in this crazy world.

After providing care to Mother in her retirement residence, she came to live with us. Mother and I were able to connect and rediscover who we were, separately and together. Our relationship flourished, bringing us a greater and deeper connection, which also allowed for many adventures of learning and love.

I worked in Long-Term Care (LTC) and have been a personal support worker for 21 years, but since my knee injury, I began working as a Restorative Care Aide. Unfortunately, my mother died a few days before my retirement, so I was unable to have her there for this.

LTC homes often promote the idea your loved ones can expect many more hours of nursing and personal care than typically in a retirement home. I strongly disagree with this idea! I have worked in both.

As mentioned on the news, they do not even receive 15 minutes of care when short-staffed, or when new staff or agency staff work. These are those who do not know or haven’t gotten familiar with your loved one’s care routine or their care plan! How can a senior receive, in many cases, only 15 minutes of care a day and call that sufficient in either Retirement or Long-Term Care?

Within LTC Homes, the residents are still expected to share dining rooms, TV rooms, and other living areas within the facilities. They have a very limited space to call their own after a lifetime of helping, caring, loving and providing for others.

Long-Term Care Homes are intended to be a place where mainly senior adults reside, in comfort and safety, as they head into their golden years.

However, more and more Long-Term Care facilities are facing an influx of younger individuals who have no other place to live. This influx of a younger generation is loudly and actively demanding their needs be met, leaving the less vocal to be overlooked, as they are unable to articulate their needs as clearly.

LTC Homes are a place where individuals can live and receive help. They have access to 24-hour nursing and personal care for all the activities of daily living (ADL’s). Many Nursing Homes claim on-site supervision or monitoring will ensure your loved one’s safety and well-being. Sadly, this has not been our experience in my Mother’s LTC Home.

My Mother is now dead, due to a preventable accident which should never have happened. Her case is now under investigation. We are waiting for the coroner’s results and the conclusion of the autopsy. It may be weeks before we will have conclusive results which will confirm the cause of Mother’s death. A Toronto Coroner is investigating my Mother’s death, and he has called in a Detective. The Detective will lead his own investigation into the senseless death of our Mother. My family never wants to see another loved one permanently injured or die as the result of, what we view as, negligence and inadequate staffing.

It is our belief she is dead because of a lack of supervision; period. She was not protected, as she should have been, from abuse. Another resident assaulted her, in her Home, several days before her death. She was left unattended, afraid, unprotected from another person with dementia while staff were off performing some duties, leaving a common area unprotected, all because of what all Nursing Homes say, “is lack of funding!” We understand this individual is not of sound mind, and are not holding them accountable, so who is accountable?

I have observed other residents wandering around, unaware of what is happening. Often, they are unsupervised, and I myself have rung for staff assistance, to deal with a fight between two individuals. Another time, a gentleman had fallen but got up without staff awareness. One gentleman had his head smashed through a plate glass window. The list goes on and on, with many events my sister and I both witnessed.

In my opinion, management neglected to meet Mother’s needs and provide for her well-being. I do not blame the staff on her unit. The Nurses, Personal Support Workers, and Activation Staff attempt to cope to the best of their abilities. From my experienced considered opinion, the bottom line is, management: whether in government-run homes or homes for profit, not enough is being done to protect our vulnerable population.

Part 2 Next Week