Family wants answers after mother repeatedly attacked in long-term care home
Cristina Howorun, CTV London
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 6:08PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 19, 2014 6:41PM EST
Ada Cuthbert, 92, suffers from dementia and is a resident at the Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care. Now, her family is seeking answers after a string of attacks that bring into question just how safe long-term care facilities are.
WARNING: Some photos may be disturbing to readers.
In fact, Ada's family wants more than answers - they want Ada to be safe.
They say the health system is failing to protect their mother - and thousands of others - while St. Joseph's Hospital is saying, it's doing the best it can.
Photos show Ada Cuthbert's injuries on Valentine's Day - two days after she was brutally attacked in her own room at Mount Hope.
Daughter Carol Cuthbert says "I see my mother so sore in the face and so hurting and she's so scared, I don't know what she wants. I can't help her, look at her little face."
It's a face that has been brutalized several times over the past two years by other patients at Mount Hope.
Most recently on February 12th.
"About eight o'clock she was taken to hospital by ambulance. A man came in her room and pummeled her face," Carol says.
The hospital has confirmed it was another resident. And while police were called, no charges were laid. Like Ada, the man suffers from dementia.
"She's been abused three or four times now, and that's just what I know."
And it has always been at the hands of another patient - like at Christmas in 2012 - Carol says another resident tried to pull her mother's lip straight off.
"My mother is 92, she doesn't deserve this in her safe place.This is where she's supposed to be safe and cared for."
St. Joseph's Hospital runs Mount Hope, and staff there say they are doing their best.
Karen Perkin, vice-president and chief nurse executive at St. Joseph's, says "Patient and resident safety is the most important thing."
But, she says staff can't simply isolate or restrain aggressive patients, "If we isolated these individuals and it was just something that would happen occasionally, how wrong that would be - and if it was your family member how wrong that would be."
This isn't just an issue at Mount Hope, it's a problem facing long-term care facilities across the nation.
Some estimate that 10,000 residents are assaulted by other residents every year across Canada and with an aging population, it's a problem that won't go away and that has no easy solution.
Mount Hope has developed a temporary solution for Ada - a piece of plastic held up by Velcro, blocks the entrance to her room.
Perkin says it's not the only solution "It could be one of many and again it would be individualized to what would be most helpful to the individual."
Due to patient confidentiality, Perkin could not discuss steps taken with the aggressor.
Carol says "Do I think it'll work? No I don't. He could've killed her that night, he could be killing her right now for all I know, and that's the truth."
For Carol, there's only one answer, "Please, in God's name, change this, for my mother and your mother."
Health Minister Deb Matthews released a statement in connection with the incident:
“The safety of residents in Long-term Care Homes is of paramount importance and this tragic incident is evidence that our work is not done. That’s why we passed legislation to allow for stronger enforcement and better inspections of Ontario’s long term care homes.
The ministry responds immediately to any reported information where there is serious harm, or risk of serious harm to a resident by making inquiries and conducting onsite unannounced inspections. These results of the inspections and subsequent enforcement measures are posted online.
The incident in question was reported to the ministry on February 12, 2014 and the home contacted the police as required under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has initiated an inspection at the home.
During our time in government, we have taken important steps to improve care in long-term care homes. My government has funded over 10,000 new frontline staff in long-term care since 2003.
We know that older Ontarians with challenging and complex behaviours need additional, specialized supports. That’s why we hired over 600 new full-time staff since 2011 through Behavioural Supports Ontario to enhance care and services for Ontarians with behaviours like aggression, wandering, physical resistance and agitation.
This initiative builds on our ongoing work to provide additional training to staff in long-term care homes to improve resident safety. In January 2013, our government provided $10 million for long-term care homes to provide training to approximately 47,000 staff focused on improving resident safety, preventing abuse and neglect and improving care for residents with complex conditions, like residents with dementias. Last month we provided an additional $10 million in long-term care home training and development for direct care staff with the same focus on resident care.
We’re also hiring additional inspectors so that we can complete comprehensive residential quality inspection of every long-term care home by the end of 2014.
These measures are helping to further strengthen the levels of care and safety in our long-term care homes. We’ll continue to work with our long-term care homes to ensure that residents are getting the care that they need."