CBC report shows poor standard of care in Ontario nursing homes

Nursing home negligence is a serious issue in Ontario, one which is unlikely to subside as the province’s population ages. Last month, CBC’s Marketplace sent an undercover journalist into a Markham, Ontario long-term care facility to record and report on the conditions there. The investigation unveiled a staff struggling to cope with its patients’ needs.

Markhaven Home for Seniors houses approximately 96 residents and is in many respects a typical Ontario long-term care facility. The CBC reports that it ranks “in the middle of the pack when it comes to the number of critical incident reports it generates for issues such as abuse, medication errors and disease outbreak.”

The facility relies heavily on volunteers, including high school students; Marketplace’s reporter gained access by volunteering there.

The reporter discovered a litany of troubling conditions: residents waiting in long lineups to use the bathroom; residents waiting to have “soiled incontinence products” removed and changed; incidents of resident-against-resident violence; emotional needs being ignored in the rush to attend to urgent physical needs.

Staff at the facility was under extraordinary strain. Single workers are on some nights left to care for up to 25 residents. Many staff are forced to skip meals and breaks as they struggle to attend to their patients.

This environment led to substandard care for many residents. The CBC spoke with Marie Harris whose 84-year-old mother, Giovanna Conforti, died at Markhaven in May 2017. On the night she died, Conforti was placed in her bed around midnight, out of reach of her call bell which was used to summon nurses when she was in distress. Conforti’s care schedule dictated that she should be checked on every four hours, but she was left alone until 7am the next day. She passed away during the night, apparently as she struggled to reach her call bell.

Harris believes the province’s staffing guidelines are partly to blame for her mother’s death

“There should be legislation that has to have more people to take care of our loved ones,” she told the CBC. “More nursing staff, more [personal support workers, or PSWs] on the floor.”

Patient advocates and personal injury lawyers specializing in nursing home negligence agree. In Alberta, provincial guidelines dictate that long-term care patients should receive 1.9 hours of one-on-one care each day. In Manitoba that number is 3.6 hours. Ontario once had an “hours of direct care” guideline but removed it in 1996. Today, the only staffing guideline for long-term care facilities is that each must have a registered nurse on duty at all hours. By this standard, staffing at the Markhaven Home for Seniors meets provincial standards.

If you or a member of your family has received sub-par care at a long-term care facility or has been the victim of nursing home negligence, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help.

 

Image credit: Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore

Q&A: Will Davidson LLP’s Meghan Walker discuss nursing home abuse

 

The residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are among Ontario’s most vulnerable residents, and as the province’s population ages, the size of this demographic is set to grow dramatically. Unfortunately, some residents of Ontario’s old-age homes are already subject to neglect and abuse. We spoke with Will Davidson LLP’s Meghan Walker to learn a little bit more about abuse in nursing homes and how a personal injury lawyer can help.

Question: What qualifies as nursing home neglect or abuse?

Meghan Walker: Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms. It can include physical violence, emotional abuse, medical neglect, social isolation, and failing to assist the resident with their basic needs.

Q: What are common signs of nursing home neglect or abuse?

MW: There are many different examples of these types of abuse and neglect.

For example, if a staff member within a nursing home intends to cause harm to the resident, it would certainly constitute abuse. Neglect of a resident can include failing to provide adequate safety measures or failing to properly care for their medical conditions, mobility issues, or cognitive issues. Failing to provide adequate food or water or failing to provide a clean and safe environment for the resident to live will also constitute neglect. Where a resident also does not have proper assistance with bathing and other types of hygiene care, the nursing home may be found liable for their neglect. A resident being ignored by staff members of the nursing home, or a resident who is left alone without access to socialization is a victim of social and emotional neglect.

Q: Are there signs of abuse that family and friends should look out for?

MW: It is important that friends and family members visit their loved ones to ensure they are being well cared for within the nursing home. Common signs of abuse and neglect that family should watch out for include:

  • Weight loss, which could possibly be the result of malnourishment, or illness
  • Bruises or other unexplained sores that could have resulted from falls or abuse
  • Withdrawn behaviour or a depressed mood
  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Exhibiting pain behaviours when sitting or lying down, which may be the result of bed sores

When visiting a loved one, it is also important to look around the common areas of the nursing home. Do other residents seem happy and well cared for? Are there any trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall hazards around the nursing home?

While some family members are not able to visit their loves ones as much as they like, communication with the nursing home is vital. Ask for frequent updates from staff; if your calls or e-mails to staff at the nursing home go unanswered, it can be a red flag. It is also important that family members participate in care plan meetings to ensure all of the emotional and physical needs of their loved on are being addressed.

Q: When should my family contact a personal injury lawyer about nursing home abuse?

MW: Families should contact a lawyer if they have any concerns about the care their loved one is receiving as a resident in a nursing home, or if they have any questions about the rights their loved one has as a resident in a nursing home. Call or e-mail the lawyers Will Davidson LLP and we would be happy to give you a free consultation, either in person or over the phone.

Q: What should I take to my meeting with a personal injury lawyer?

MW: If you are interested in pursuing an action for abuse or neglect against a nursing home, it is helpful but not essential that you provide us with a copy of any records you have from the nursing home, including correspondence. Photographs of the alleged abuse or neglect are also helpful, but not essential.

 

If you believe that a family member has suffered abuse or neglect at a nursing home, contact Will Davidson LLP today to speak with a personal injury lawyer like Meghan Walker. Our team can help you understand your options and guide you through the legal process.

 

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